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A Novell 





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Original frenc/i 



byJ-M-DENT &-SONS-1S 3 



1910, 1912, 1913 


" WHERE our ancestors would have seen life," says Victor 
Hugo sadly in his Notes of Travel, " we see matter." 

In so far as that is true, Hugo stood on the boundary 
between two epochs in European thought, stretching a hand 
to each and uniting in himself the chief characteristics of both. 
For he saw life and matter with the clearness that is born of 
love and breeds love again. He saw them, that is, not as 
separate entities, but as parts one of the other the shuttle 
and warp weaving eternally the living fabric of romance. 
To catch the form and colour of that magic tapestry was the 
object of Hugo's art.- And because in Les Miserables, of all 
his prose works, that object has been worked out with perhaps 
the least intermixture of other motives, the book which follows 
must always take high place among the achievements of him 
whom Swinburne does not fear to describe " the greatest 
writer born in the nineteenth century." 

How proud a title that is, only a generation yet unborn can 
justly estimate. Because one can seemingly trace to an 
unusual degree the operation of the causes which gave him 
his claim to it, Hugo's life-story is as fascinating as one of 
his own novels. 

There was in his blood, to begin with, that union of Teutonic 
and Celtic strains which has so often issued in great literature. 
On the one side Lorraine, and on the other Brittany, gave him 
ancestry, and he was wise indeed in his choice of a birth- 
place. Besanfon, where he entered the world on February 26, 
1802, is the ancient Besontium, whence Caesar drove the 
Sequani in 58 B.C. ; and the vine-clad temple-dotted hills which 
surround its rocky isthmus have forbidden it to forget the 
past. It is a town both strong and beautiful. Many of its 
wide streets still bear their old Gallo-Roman names; its 
squares are filled with the music of fountains; and over all, 
perched upon a steep and inaccessible crag 390 feet high, 
towers a citadel said to be Vauban's masterpiece. In the 
mind of a boy born of such blood among such scenes the 

* 2234708 

viii Les Miserables 

spirit of romance must soon have begun to spread its wings. 
In the case of Hugo succeeding circumstances did their best 
to develop it. The boy's father, General Hugo, entered tha 
service of Joseph Bonaparte, king first of Italy and after- 
wards of Spain, and Victor's early years were spent amid 
continually changing scenes and in the tracks of armies. There 
is little wonder that at twelve years of age he was already 
writing verses, and that at twenty-one he had gained a wide 
measure of recognition among his compatriots. 

Fully to understand the intellectual environment of Hugo's 
youth, however, one must have an eye to the tremendous 
change which was then beginning to sweep over French 
literature. Despite the excursions and alarums of the Revolu- 
tion, Rousseau's leaven was at work. Madame de Stael was 
still introducing to France the products of the incipient 
romantic movement in Germany and England. Chateau- 
briand showed that the moment had come for France likewise 
to cast off the fetters of formal classicism; and Lamartine, 
de Vigny, and de Laprade breathed the new life into French 
poetry as did Delavigne and Alexandre Dumas into other 
departments of literature. With his tragedy Cromwell, pub- 
lished in 1827, Hugo embarked upon the full tide of the 
romantic movement. " He applied his doctrine," says Pro- 
fessor Roget, " in a series of dramas, to one of which, Hernani, 
the romanticists nailed their colours and compelled the public 
to bow. From 1830 to 1885 Victor Hugo was in all kinds 
of literature, at first an initiator, then a revered and victorious 
chief, and during his old age an idolised master." 

It is to the second of these three periods that Les Miserables 
belongs. As will be seen from the list of his works appended 
to this introduction, Hugo's genius was in the rich season of 
its full fruition when, in 1852, he purchased the delightful 
estate in Guernsey known as Hauteville House. Les Chati- 
ments " certainly the greatest achievement in the fusion 
of pure poetry with political and personal satire in all litera- 
ture," says W. E. Henley which appeared in the following 
year, sublimated all the fire and passion of the fight against 
Napoleon in which Hugo had borne so prominent a part. 
The nine years which followed years which witnessed the 
publication of only three more works gave the quietude and 
seclusion of Hauteville House time to do their work in the 
ripening of genius. By 1862, when Les Miserables made its 
appearance simultaneously in ten languages, Hugo's mind 

Introduction ix 

was less concerned with the ephemeras of his day than with 
the abiding facts of human nature. In this work, with all 
his wealth of invention, his beauty of diction, and all the 
sincerity of which he was capable, Hugo set forth in one 
glowing panorama the tragi-comedy of modern life. I do not 
claim for the work that it is Hugo's greatest. That distinction 
must remain with his poetry. The style of Les Miserables 
may be too full of mannerisms, the book may lack humour, 
there may be passages in which the interest is not sustained 
at a height proportionate to their length; but nevertheless, 
both as a picture of European life and thought at one of its 
most important stages, and as the record of the attitude 
towards that life of one of the master minds of its period, Les 
Miser aoles must always remain of immense value to the 
student of man and of engrossing interest to the lover of letters. 
It is one of those triumphs which forced even so unsympathetic 
a critic of his work as W. E. Henley to admit that Hugo is 
" far and away the greatest artist in words that modern France 
has seen." 

Les Miserables is an immortal book, not only because it is 
the work of a genius, but because its theme is perennial. 
It is not, alas, the day after to-morrow that humane men will 
cease to be interested in the sins and sorrows of humanity. 
For Hugo, certainly, the day of that indifference never dawned. 
His political career proved it. Behind all his posing, all I his 
faith in himself, there surged up a passionate demand for an 
answer to the question : Why are we such devils to one another ? 
I believe that was to him the supreme problem. Over and 
over again he sets it forth in his works, putting it now this 
way and now that as if never despairing of finding some form 
in which it shall seem solvable. Now and then, it is true, 
one does find the facts set out almost hopelessly, with a bitter 
union of pain and scorn: 

Homm, mon frere, nous soinmes 

Deux hommes 
Et, pleins de venins, 

Deux nains. 

Ton desir secret concerte 

Ma perte, 
Et mon noir souhait 

Te bait. 

It is as if Hugo saw not merely Tennyson's " Nature," but all 

x Les Miserables 

life from end to end of the chain " red in tooth and claw," 
and sent from a wounded heart the cry: 

Tout se tient par une chaine 

De haine; 
On voit dans les fleurs 

Des pleurs. 

In sounding that depth of feeling Hugo did but share the 
experience of many a noble heart before and since. But in 
him, as Swinburne has said, mankind witnessed " the fusion 
of pity and horror into a fiery and burning charity " which 
found its most consummate utterance in Les Miserables. 
Like a good physician, Hugo knew a clear understanding of 
an evil to be essential to its cure. And here, depicted by a 
master hand in the very performance of its fell work, is that 
elaborate machinery for the manufacture of unhappiness which 
we miscall civilisation. If the romanticists in general sought 
in the Middle Ages the colour, material, and often even the 
manner of their work, Hugo sought more than they. He 
sought, and found, the spirit of kindliness and of brother- 
hood which made man more to man than a mere being upon 
whom one might fitly exercise the lambent brilliance of a 
slanderous wit, or with whom one might profitably "do a 
deal." That is the gospel of Les Miserables. 

Keen as was Hugo's sympathy with the sorrows of humanity, 
he was not obsessed by them to the exclusion of all else. He 
saw, as I said in beginning, both life and matter. In Swin- 
burne's words, he offered a " fiery devotion to all that was 
beautiful, noble, venerable in the past " and in nature. It 
informed him with " a passion of reverence " and made him 
that " great crusader against modern barbarism whose crown- 
ing appeal to his countrymen on behalf of their ravaged and 
desecrated inheritance was delivered in the famous pamphlet 
Guerre aux Demolisseurs ! The ruined wonders of Karnac 
gave him ' almost a moment of despair.' The wreck of ' an 
unique thing which is no more ' wrung from his indignation 
a cry of natural and noble anguish." To Hugo, nothing that 
had played a part in the pageant of the centuries could be a 
matter of indifference. Prophet and bard, he had the seeing 
eye without which his " genius of diction " had been vain. 
But that is not all. To these twain Hugo added that thing, 
unknown and indefinable, which stirs in the wild places of the 
earth and is the soul of beauty. For it is his chief est glory 
that his own words, which the bathing peasant-girl sang to him 

Introduction xi 

on the shore at Biarritz, were true of himself in a degree 
remarkable even among the few great ones of whom they 
are true at all: 

Le vent qui vient a travers la montagne 
Me rendra fou. 

S. R. JOHN. 

The following is a list of the chief publications of Victor 

POETICAL WORKS: Nouvelles Odes, 1824; Odes et Poesies Diverses, 
1822; Odes et Ballades, 1826; Les Orient ales, 1829; Feuilles d'Automne, 
1831; Les Chants du Crepuscule, 1835; Les Voix Interieures, 1837; Les 
Rayons et les Ombres, 1840; Odes sur Napoleon, 1840; Les Chatiments, 
1853; Les Contemplations, 1856; La Legende des Siecles (ist part), 
1859; Les Chansons des Rues et des Bois, 1865; L'Annee Terrible, 1872; 
La Legende des Siecles (2nd part), 1877; L'Art^d'etre Grand-pere, 1877; 
Le Pape, 1878; La Piti6 Supreme, 1879; L'Ane, 1880; Religion et 
Religions, 1880; Les Quatre Vents de 1'Esprit, 1881; La L6gende des 
Siecles (3rd part), 1883. 

DRAMATIC WORKS: Cromwell, 1827; Amy Robsart, 1828; Hernanl, 
1830; Marion Delorme, 1831; Le Roi s'amuse, 1832; Lucrece Borgia, 
1833; Marie Tudor, 1833; Angelo, Tyran de Padoue, 1835; La Esmeralda 
(libretto for Opera), 1836; Ruy Bias, 1838; Burgraves, 1843; Torquemada, 

NOVELS AND OTHER PROSE WORKS: Hans d'Islande, 1823; Bug-Jargal 
(enlarged for book form), 1826: Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamn6, 1829; 
Notre -Dame de Paris, 1831; Etude sur Mirabeau, 1834; Claude Gueux, 
1834; Le Rhin, 1842; Napol6on le Petit, 1852; Les Mis6rables, 1862; 
Littdrature et Philosophic melees, 1864; William Shakespeare, 1864; Les 
Travailleurs de la Mer, 1866; L'Homme qui rit, 1869; Actes et Paroles, 
1872; Quatre-Vingt-Treize, 1873; Histoire d'un Crime, 1877; Discours 
pour Voltaire, 1878; Le Domaine public payant, 1878; L'Archipel de 
la Manche, 1883. 

Hugo left a mass of manuscripts, of which some have been published 
since his death: Le Theatre en Liberte, La Fin de Satan, Dieu, Choses 
Vues, Tonte la Lyre, Ocean, En Voyage, Postscriptum de ma Vie. 

An Edition Definitive of his works in 48 volumes was published 1880-5. 

TRANSLATIONS: Of novels, 28 vols., 1895, 1899, etc.; of dramas, by 
I. G. Burnham, 1895. Separate translations of prose and poetical works. 

LIFE: Among the biographies and appreciations are: Sainte-Beuve, 
Biographic des Con temporains, vol. iv., 1831; Portraits Contemporains, vol. 
L, 1846; Victor Hugo raconte par un temoin de sa vie (Madame Hugo), 1863 ; 
A. Barbou, 1880 (trans. 1881); E. Eire, Victor Hugo avant 1830, 1883; 
apres 1830, 1891; apres 1852, 1894; F. W. H. Myers, Essays, 1883; Paul 
de Saint Victor, 1885, 1892; Alfred Asseline, Victor Hugo intime, 1885; 
G. B. Smith, 1.885 ; J- Cappon.A Memoir and a Study, 1885 ; A.C. Swinburne, 
A Study of Victor Hugo, 1886; E. Dupuy, Victor Hugo, l'homme et le 
poete, 1886; F. T. Marzials (Great Writers), 1888; Charles Renouvier, 
Victor Hugo le Poete, 1892; L. Mabilleau, 1893; J. P. Nichol, 1893; C. 
Renouvier, Victor Hugo le Philosophic, 1900; E. Rigal, 1900; G. V. 
Hugo, Mon Grand-pere, 1902; Juana LescUde, Victo Hugo intime, 1902; 
Theophile Gautier, 1902; F. Gregh, Etude sur Victor Hugo, 1905; P. 
Stapfers, Victor Hugo a Guernsey, 1905. 





I. AN UPRIGHT MAN ........ 3 

II. THE FALL ... 58 

III. THE YEAR 1817 "i 



VI. JAVERT ..'... .... I 9 2 


VIII. COUNTER-STROKE ........ 271 


I. WATERLOO ......... 291 





VI. PETIT PICPUS ......... 459 

VII. A PARENTHESIS ........ 488 






IV. THE FRIENDS OF THE ABC. . . . . . 619 




So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a 
social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation, arti- 
ficially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is 
divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of 
the age the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman 
by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and 
spiritual night are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, 
social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a 
yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and 
misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless. 







IN 1815, M. Charles Franois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of 

D . He was a man of seventy-five, and had occupied the 

bishopric of D since 1806. Although it in no manner con- 
cerns, even in the remotest degree, what we have to relate, it 
may not be useless, were it only for the sake of exactness in 
all things, to notice here the reports and gossip which had arisen 
on his account from the time of his arrival in the diocese. 

Be it true or false, what is said about men often has as much 
influence upon their lives, and especially upon their destinies, 
as what they do. 

M. Myriel was the son of a counsellor of the Parlement of 
Aix; of the rank given to the legal profession. His father, 
intending him to inherit his place, had contracted a marriage 
for him at the early age of eighteen or twenty, according to 
a widespread custom among parliamentary families. Charles 
Myriel, notwithstanding this marriage, had, it was said, been an 
object of much attention. His person was admirably moulded; 
although of slight figure, he was elegant and graceful; all the 
earlier part of his life had been devoted to the world and to its 
pleasures. The revolution came, events crowded upon each 
other; the parliamentary families, decimated, hunted, and pur- 
sued, were soon dispersed. M. Charles Myriel, on the first out- 
break of the revolution, emigrated to Italy. His wife died there 
of a lung complaint with which she had long been threatened. 
They had no children. What followed in the fate of M. Myriel ? 
The decay of the old French society, the fall of his own family, 
the tragic sights of '93, still more fearful, perhaps, to the exiles 
who beheld them from afar, magnified by fright did these 


4 Les Miserables 

arouse in him ideas of renunciation and of solitude? Was he, 
in the midst of one of the reveries or emotions which then con- 
sumed his life, suddenly attacked by one of those mysterious 
and terrible blows which sometimes overwhelm, by smiting to 
the heart, the man whom public disasters could not shake, by 
aiming at life or fortune? No one could have answered; all 
that was known was that when he returned from Italy he was 
a priest. 

In 1804, M. Myriel was cure of B (Brignolles). He was 

then an old man, and lived in the deepest seclusion. 

Near the time of the coronation, a trifling matter of business 
belonging to his curacy what it was, is not now known precisely 
took fiim to Paris. 

Among other personages of authority he went to Cardinal 
Fesch on behalf of his parishioners. 

One day, when the emperor had come to visit his uncle, the 
worthy cure, who was waiting in the ante-room, happened to 
be on the way of his Majesty. Napoleon noticing that the old 
man looked at him with a certain curiousness, turned around 
and said brusquely: 

" Who is this goodman who looks at me? " 

" Sire," said M. Myriel, " you behold a good man, and I a 
great man. Each of us may profit by it." 

That evening the emperor asked the cardinal the name of 
the cure, and some time afterwards M. Myriel was overwhelmed 
with surprise on learning that he had been appointed Bishop 

Beyond this, no one knew how much truth there was in the 
stories which passed current concerning the first portion of M. 
Myriel's life. But few families had known the Myriels before 
the revolution. 

M. Myriel had to submit to the fate of every new-comer in a 
small town, where there are many tongues to talk, and but few 
heads to think. He had to submit, although he was bishop, and 
because he was bishop. But after all, the gossip with which 
his name was connected, was only gossip: noise, talk, words, 
less than words palabres, as they say in the forcible language 
of the South. 

Be that as it may, after nine years of episcopacy, and of 

residence in D , all these stories, topics of talk, which 

engross at first petty towns and petty people, were entirely 
forgotten. Nobody would have dared to speak of, or even to 
remember them. 

Fantine 5 

When M. Myriel came to D he was accompanied by an 

old lady, Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister, ten years 
younger than himself. 

Their only domestic was a woman of about the same age as 
Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was called Madame Magloire, and 
who, after having been the servant of M. le cure", now took the 
double title of femme de chambre of Mademoiselle and house- 
keeper of Monseigneur. 

Mademoiselle Baptistine was a tall, pale, thin, sweet person. 
She fully realised the idea which is expressed by the word 
" respectable ; " for it seems as if it were necessary that a 
woman should be a mother to be venerable. She had never 
been pretty; her whole life, which had been but a succession 
of pious works, had produced upon her a kind of transparent 
whiteness, and in growing old she had acquired what may be 
called the beauty of goodness. What had been thinness in her 
youth had become in maturity transparency, and this etherial- 
ness permitted gleams of the angel within. She was more a 
spirit than a virgin mortal. Her form was shadow-like, hardly 
enough body to convey the thought of sex a little earth con- 
taining a spark large eyes, always cast down; a pretext for a 
soul to remain on earth. 

Madame Magloire was a little, white, fat, jolly, bustling old 
woman, always out of breath, caused first by her activity, and 
then by the asthma. 

M. Myriel, upon his arrival, was installed in his episcopal 
palace with the honours ordained by the imperial decrees, which 
class the bishop next in rank to the field-marshal. The mayor 
and the president made him the first visit r and he, on his part, 
paid like honour to the general and the prefect. 

The installation being completed, the town was curious to 
see its bishop at work. 



THE bishop's palace at D was contiguous to the hospital: 

the palace was a spacious and beautiful edifice, built of stone 
near the beginning of the last century by Monseigneur Henri 
Pujet, a doctor of theology of the Faculty of Paris, abbe of 

Simore, who was bishop of D in 1712. The palace was in 

truth a lordly dwelling: there was an air of grandeur about 

6 Lcs Miserables 

everything, the apartments of the bishop, the saloons, the 
chambers, the court of honour, which was very large, with 
arched walks after the antique Florentine style; and a garden 
planted with magnificent trees. 

In the dining hall was a long, superb gallery, which was level 
with the ground, opening upon the garden; Monseigneur Henri 
Pujet had given a grand banquet on the 2gth of July, 1714, to 
Monseigneur Charles Brulart de Genii s, archbishop, Prince 
d'Embrun, Antoine de Mesgrigny, capuchin, bishop of Grasse, 
Philippe de Vendome, grand-prior de France, the Abb6 de Saint 
Honor^ de Le"rins, Fra^ois de Berton de Grillon, lord bishop of 
Vence, Cesar de Sabran de Forcalquier, lord bishop of Glandeve, 
et Jean Soanen, priest of the oratory, preacher in ordinary to 
the king, lord bishop of Senez; the portraits of these seven 
reverend personages decorated the hall, and this memorable 
date, July 29th, 1714, appeared in letters of gold on a white 
marble tablet. 

The hospital was a low, narrow, one story building with a 
small garden. 

Three days after the bishop's advent he visited the hospital ; 
when the visit was ended, he invited the director to oblige him 
by coming to the palace. 

" Monsieur," he said to the director of the hospital, " how 
many patients have you? " 

" Twenty-six, monseigneur." 

" That is as I counted them," said the bishop. 

" The beds," continued the director, " are very much 

" I noticed it." 

" The wards are but small chambers, and are not easily 

" It seems so to me." 

" And then, when the sun does shine, the garden is very 
small for the convalescents." 

" That was what I was thinking." 

" Of epidemics we have had typhus fever this year; two 
years ago we had miliary fever, sometimes one hundred patients, 
and we did not know what to do." 

" That occurred to me." 

" What can we do, monseigneur? " said the director; " we 
must be resigned." 

This conversation took place in the dining gallery on the 
ground floor. 

Fantinc 7 

The bishop was silent a few moments: then he turned 
suddenly towards the director. 

" Monsieur," he said, " how many beds do you think this 
hall alone would contain? " 

"The dining hall of monseigneur ! " exclaimed the director, 

The bishop ran his eyes over the hall, seemingly taking 
measure and making calculations. 

" It will hold twenty beds," said he to himself; then raising 
his voice, he said: 

" Listen, Monsieur Director, to what I have to say. There is 
evidently a mistake here. There are twenty-six of you in five 
or six small rooms: there are only three of us, and space for 
sixty. There is a mistake, I tell you. You have my house 
and I have yours. Restore mine to me; you are at home." 

Next day the twenty-six poor invalids were installed in the 
bishop's palace, and the bishop was in the hospital. 

M. Myriel had no property, his family having been im- 
poverished by the revolution. His sister had a life estate of 
five hundred francs, which in the vicarage sufficed for her 
personal needs. M. Myriel received from the government as 
bishop a salary of fifteen thousand francs. The day on which 
he took up his residence in the hospital building, he resolved 
to appropriate this sum once for all to the following uses. We 
copy the schedule then written by him. 

Schedule for the Regulation of my Household Expenses 

11 For the little seminary, fifteen hundred livres. 

Mission congregation, one hundred livres. 

For the Lazaristes of Montdidier, one hundred livres. 

Congregation of the Saint-Esprit, one hundred and fifty livres-.. 

Seminary of foreign missions in Paris, two hundred livres. 

Religious establishments in the Holy Land, one hundred* 

Maternal charitable societies, three hundred livres. 

For that of Aries, fifty livres. 

For the amelioration of prisons, four hundred livres. 

For the relief and deliverance of prisoners, five hundred livres-. 

For the liberation of fathers of families imprisoned for debt, 
one thousand livres. 

Additions to the salaries of poor schoolmasters of the diocese,., 
two thousand livres. 

8 Les Miserables 

Public storehouse of Hautes-Alpes, one hundred livres. 

Association of the ladies of D of Manosque and Sisteron 

for the gratuitous instruction of poor girls, fifteen hundred livres. 
For the poor, six thousand livres. 
My personal expenses, one thousand livres. 
Total, fifteen thousand livres." 

M. Myriel made no alteration in this plan during the time he 

held the see of D ; he called it, as will be seen, the regulation 

of his household expenses. 

Mademoiselle Baptistine accepted this arrangement with 
entire submission: M. Myriel was to her at once her brother 
and her bishop, her companion by ties of blood and her superior 
by ecclesiastical authority. She loved and venerated him un- 
affectedly: when he spoke, she listened; when he acted, she 
gave him her co-operation. Madame Magloire, however, their 
servant, grumbled a little. The bishop, as will be seen, had 
reserved but a thousand francs; this, added to the income of 
Mademoiselle Baptistine, gave them a yearly independence of 
fifteen hundred francs, upon which the three old people subsisted. 

Thanks, however, to the rigid economy of Madame Magloire, 
and the excellent management of Mademoiselle Baptistine, 

whenever a curate came to D , the bishop found means to 

extend to him his hospitality. 

About three months after the installation, the bishop said 
one day, " With all this I am very much cramped." " I think 
so too," said Madame Magloire: " Monseigneur has not even 
asked for the sum due him by the department for his carriage 
expenses in town, and in his circuits in the diocese. It was 
formerly the custom with all bishops." 

" Yes ! " said the bishop; " you are right, Madame Magloire." 

He made his application. 

Some time afterwards the conseil-g&ieVal took his claim into 
consideration and voted him an annual stipend of three thousand 
francs under this head : " Allowance to the bishop for carriage 
expenses, and travelling expenses for pastoral visits." 

The bourgeoisie of the town were much excited on the subject, 
and in regard to it a senator of the empire, formerly member of 
the Council of Five Hundred, an advocate of the Eighteenth 

Brumaire, now provided with a rich senatorial seat near D , 

wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu, Minister of Public Worship, a 
fault-finding, confidential epistle, from which we make the 
.following extract: 

Fantine 9 

" Carriage expenses ! What can he want of it in a town of 
less than 4000 inhabitants ? Expenses of pastoral visits ! And 
what good do they do, in the first place; and then, how is it 
possible to travel by post in this mountain region? There are 
no roads; he can go only on horseback. Even the bridge over 
the Durance at Chateau-Arnoux is scarcely passable for ox- 
carts. These priests are always so; avaricious and miserly. 
This one played the good apostle at the outset: now he acts 
like the rest; he must have a carriage and post-chaise. He 
must have luxury like the old bishops. Bah ! this whole priest- 
hood! Monsieur le Comte, things will never be better till the 
emperor delivers us from these macaroni priests. Down with 
the pope! (Matters were getting embroiled with Rome.) As 
for me, I am for Caesar alone," etc., etc., etc. 

This application, on the other hand, pleased Madame Magloire 
exceedingly. "Good," said she to Mademoiselle Baptistine; 
" Monseigneur began with others, but he has found at last that 
he must end by taking care of himself. He has arranged all his 
charities, and so now here are three thousand francs for us." 

The same evening the bishop wrote and gave to his sister a 
note couched in these terms: 

Carnage and Travelling Expenses 

" For beef broth for the hospital, fifteen hundred livres. 

For the Aix Maternal Charity Association, two hundred and 
fifty livres. 

For the Draguignan Maternal Charity Association, two 
hundred and fifty livres. 

For Foundlings, five hundred livres. 

For Orphans, five hundred livres. 

Total, three thousand livres." 

Such was the budget of M. Myriel. 

In regard to the official perquisites, marriage licences, dis- 
pensations, private baptisms, and preaching, consecrations of 
churches or chapels, marriages, etc., the bishop gathered them 
from the wealthy with as much exactness as he dispensed them 
to the poor. 

In a short time donations of money began to come in; those 
who had and those who had not, knocked at the bishop's door; 
some came to receive alms and others to bestow them, and in 
less than a year he had become the treasurer of all the bene- 

i o Les Miserables 

volent, and the dispenser to all the needy. Large sums passed 
through his hands; nevertheless he changed in no wise his mode 
of life, nor added the least luxury to his simple fare. 

On the contrary, as there is always more misery among the 
lower classes than there is humanity in the higher, everything 
was given away, so to speak, before it was received, like water 
on thirsty soil; it was well that money came to him, for he 
never kept any; and besides he robbed himself. It being the 
custom that all bishops should put their baptismal names at 
the head of their orders and pastoral letters, the poor people of 
the district had chosen by a sort of affectionate instinct, from 
among the names of the bishop, that which was expressive to 
them, and they always called him Monseigneur Bienvenu. We 
shall follow their example and shall call him thus ; besides, this 
pleased him. " I like this name," said he; " Bienvenu counter- 
balances Monseigneur." 

We do not claim that the portrait which we present here is 
a true one; we say only that it resembles him. 



THE bishop, after converting his carriage into alms, none the 
less regularly made his round of visits, and in the diocese of 

D this was a wearisome task. There was very little plain, 

a good deal of mountain; and hardly any roads, as a matter of 
course; thirty-two curacies, forty-one vicarages, and two hun- 
dred and eighty-five sub-curacies. To visit all these is a great 
labour, but the bishop went through with it. He travelled on 
foot in his own neighbourhood, in a cart when he was in the 
plains, and in a cacolei, a basket strapped on the back of a 
mule, when in the mountains. The two women usually accom- 
panied him, but when the journey was too difficult for them 
he went alone. 

One day he arrived at Senez, formerly the seat of a bishopric, 
mounted on an ass. His purse was very empty at the time, 
and would not permit any better conveyance. The mayor of 
the city came to receive him at the gate of the episcopal resi- 
dence, and saw him dismount from his ass with astonishment 
and mortification. Several of the citizens stood near by, 
laughing. " Monsieur Mayor," said the bishop, " and Messieurs 

Fantine 1 1 

citizens, I see what astonishes you; you think that it shows a 
good deal of pride for a poor priest to use the same conveyance 
which was used by Jesus Christ. I have done it from necessity, 
I assure you, and not from vanity." 

In his visits he was indulgent and gentle, and preached less 
than he talked. He never used far-fetched reasons or examples. 
To the inhabitants of one region he would cite the example of 
a neighbouring region. In the cantons where the necessitous 
were treated with severity he would say, " Look at the people 
of Briancon. They have given to the poor, and to widows and 
orphans, the right to mow their meadows three days before any 
one else. When their houses are in ruins they rebuild them 
without cost. And so it is a country blessed of God. For a 
whole century they have not had a single murderer." 

In villages where the people were greedy for gain at harvest 
time, he would say, " Look at Embrun. If a father of a family, 
at harvest time, has his sons in the army, and his daughters at 
service in the city, and he is sick, the priest recommends him 
in his sermons, and on Sunday, after mass, the whole population 
of the village, men, women, and children, go into the poor man's 
field and harvest his crop, and put the straw and the grain into 
his granary." To families divided by questions of property 
and inheritance, he would say, " See the mountaineers of 
Devolny, a country so wild that the nightingale is not heard 
there once in fifty years. Well now, when the father dies, in 
a family, the boys go away to seek their fortunes, and leave the 
property to the girls, so that they may get husbands." In 
those cantons where there was a taste for the law, and where 
the farmers were ruining themselves with stamped paper, he 
would say, " Look at those good peasants of the valley of 
Queyras. There are three thousand souls there. Why, it is 
like a little republic! Neither judge nor constable is known 
there. The mayor does everything. He apportions the impost, 
taxes each one according to his judgment, decides their quarrels 
without charge, distributes their patrimony without fees, gives 
judgment without expense; and he is obeyed, because he is a 
just man among simple-hearted men." In the villages which 
he found without a schoolmaster, he would again hold up the 
valley of Queyras. " Do you know how they do ? " he would 
say. " As a little district of twelve or fifteen houses cannot 
always support a teacher, they have schoolmasters that are paid 
by the whole valley, who go around from village to village, 
passing a week in this place, and ten days in that, and give 

1 2 Les Miserables 

instruction. These masters attend the fairs, where I have seen 
them. They are known by quills which they wear in their hat- 
band. Those who teach only how to read have one quill ; those 
who teach reading and arithmetic have two; and those who 
teach reading, arithmetic, and Latin, have three ; the latter are 
esteemed great scholars. But what a shame to be ignorant! 
Do like the people of Queyras." 

In such fashion would he talk, gravely and paternally; in 
default of examples he would invent parables, going straight to 
his object, with few phrases and many images, which was the 
very eloquence of Jesus Christ, convincing and persuasive. 



His conversation was affable and pleasant. He adapted him- 
self to the capacity of the two old women who lived with him, 
but when he laughed, it was the laugh of a school-boy. 

Madame Magloire usually called him Your Greatness. One 
day he rose from his arm-chair, and went to his library for a 
book. It was upon one of the upper shelves, and as the bishop 
was rather short, he could not reach it. " Madame Magloire," 
said he, " bring me a chair. My greatness does not extend ta 
this shelf." 

One of his distant relatives, the Countess of L6, rarely let an 
occasion escape of enumerating in his presence what she called 
" the expectations " of her three sons. She had several 
relatives, very old and near their death, of whom her sons were 
the legal heirs. The youngest of the three was to receive from 
a great-aunt a hundred thousand livres in the funds; the 
second was to take the title of duke from his uncle; the eldest 
would succeed to the peerage of his grandfather. The bishop 
commonly listened in silence to these innocent and pardonable 
maternal displays. Once, however, he appeared more dreamy 
than was his custom, while Madame de L6 rehearsed the detail 
of all these successions and all these " expectations." Stopping 
suddenly, with some impatience, she exclaimed, " My goodness, 
cousin, what are you thinking about? " " I am thinking," 
said the bishop, " of a strange thing which is, I believe, in St. 
Augustine: ' Place your expectations on him to whom there 
is no succession ! ' " 

Fantine 1 3 

On another occasion, when he received a letter announcing 
the decease of a gentleman of the country, in which were 
detailed, at great length, not only the dignities of the departed, 
but the feudal and titular honours of all his relatives, he ex- 
claimed: " What a broad back has death! What a wondrous 
load of titles will he cheerfully carry, and what hardihood 
must men have who will thus use the tomb to feed their 
vanity! " 

At times he made use of gentle raillery, which was almost 
always charged with serious ideas. Once, during Lent, a young 
vicar came to D , and preached in the cathedral. The sub- 
ject of his sermon was charity, and he treated it very eloquently. 
He called upon the rich to give alms to the poor, if they would 
escape the tortures of hell, which he pictured in the most fearful 
colours, and enter that paradise which he painted as so desirable 
and inviting. There was a retired merchant of wealth in the 
audience, a little given to usury, M. Geborand, who had accumu- 
lated an estate of two millions in the manufacture of coarse 
cloths and serges. Never, in the whole course of his life, had 
M. Geborand given alms to the unfortunate; but from the date 
of this sermon it was noticed that he gave regularly, every 
Sunday, a penny to the old beggar women at the door of the 
cathedral. There were six of them to share it. The bishop 
chanced to see him one day, as he was performing this act of 
charity, and said to his sister, with a smile, " See Monsieur 
Geborand, buying a pennyworth of paradise." 

When soliciting aid for any charity, he was not silenced by a 
refusal ; he was at no loss for words that would set the hearers 
thinking. One day, he was receiving alms for the poor in a 
parlour in the city, where the Marquis of Champtercier, who 
was old, rich, and miserly, was present. The marquis managed 
to be, at the same time, an ultra-royalist and an ultra- Voltairian, 
a species of which he was not the only representative. The 
bishop coming to him in turn, touched his arm and said, " Mon- 
sieur le Marquis, you must give me something." The marquis 
turned and answered drily, " Monseigneur, I have my own 
poor." " Give them to me," said the bishop. 

One day he preached this sermon in the cathedral : 

" My very dear brethren, my good friends, there are in 
France thirteen hundred and twenty thousand peasants' 
cottages that have but three openings; eighteen hundred and 
seventeen thousand that have two, the door and one window; 
and finally, three hundred and forty-six thousand cabins, with 

14 Les Miserables 

only one opening the door. And this is in consequence of 
what is called the excise upon doors and windows. In these 
poor families, among the aged women and the little children, 
dwelling in these huts, how abundant is fever and disease? 
Alas ! God gives light to men ; the law sells it. I do not blame 
the law, but I bless God. In Isere, in Var, and in the Upper 
and the Lower Alps, the peasants have not even wheelbarrows, 
they carry the manure on their backs; they have no candles, 
but burn pine knots, and bits of rope soaked in pitch. And the 
same is the case all through the upper part of Dauphine". They 
make bread once in six months, and bake it with the refuse of 
the fields. In the winter it becomes so hard that they cut it 
up with an axe, and soak it for twenty-four hours, before they 
can eat it. My brethren, be compassionate ! behold how much 
suffering there is around you." 

Born a Provenal, he had easily made himself familiar with 
all the patois of the south. He would say, " Eh, be I moussu, 
ses sage ?" as in Lower Languedoc; " Onte anaras passa ? " as 
in the Lower Alps; " Puerte un bouen moutou embe un bouen 
jroumage grase," as in Upper Dauphine. This pleased the 
people greatly, and contributed not a little to giving him ready 
access to their hearts. He was the same in a cottage and on 
the mountains as in his own house. He could say the grandest 
things in the most common language; and as he spoke all 
dialects, his words entered the souls of all. 

Moreover, his manners with the rich were the same as with 
the poor. 

He condemned nothing hastily, or without taking account of 
circumstances. He would say, " Let us see the way in which 
the fault came to pass." 

Being, as he smilingly described himself, an ex-sinner, he had 
none of the inaccessibility of a rigorist, and boldly professed, 
even under the frowning eyes of the ferociously virtuous, a 
doctrine which may be stated nearly as follows: 

" Man has a body which is at once his burden and his temp- 
tation. He drags it along, and yields to it. 

" He ought to watch over it, to keep it in bounds; to repress 
it, and only to obey it at the last extremity. It may be wrong 
to obey even then, but if so, the fault is venial. It is a fall, 
but a fall upon the knees, which may end in prayer. 

" To be a saint is the exception; to be upright is the rule. 
Err, falter, sin, but be upright. 

" To commit the least possible sin is the law for man. To 

Fantine 1 5 

live without sin is the dream of an angel. Everything terrestrial 
is subject to sin. Sin is a gravitation." 

When he heard many exclaiming, and expressing great indig- 
nation against anything, " Oh! oh!" he would say, smiling, 
" It would seem that this is a great crime, of which they are 
all guilty. How frightened hypocrisy hastens to defend itself, 
and to get under cover." 

He was indulgent towards women, and towards the poor, 
upon whom the weight of society falls most heavily; and said: 
"The faults of women, children, and servants, of the feeble, 
the indigent, and the ignorant, are the faults of their husbands, 
fathers, and masters, of the strong, the rich, and the wise." At 
other times, he said, " Teach the ignorant as much as you can; 
society is culpable in not providing instruction for all, and it 
must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is 
left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not 
he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness." 

As we see, he had a strange and peculiar way of judging 
things. I suspect that he acquired it from the Gospel. 

In company one day he heard an account of a criminal case 
that was about to be tried. A miserable man, through love for 
a woman and for the child she had borne him, had been making 
false coin, his means being exhausted. At that time counter- 
feiting was still punished with death. The woman was arrested 
for passing the first piece that he had made. She was held a 
prisoner, but there was no proof against her lover. She alone 
could testify against him, and convict him by her confession. 
She denied his guilt. They insisted, but she was obstinate in 
her denial. In this state of the case, the procureur du roi 
devised a shrewd plan. He represented to her that her lover 
was unfaithful, and by mear\s of fragments of letters skilfully 
put together, succeeded in persuading the unfortunate woman 
that she had a rival, and that this man had deceived her. At 
once exasperated by jealousy, she denounced her lover, con- 
fessed all, and proved his guilt. He was to be tried in a few 
days, at Aix, with his accomplice, and his conviction was 
certain. The story was told, and everybody was in ecstasy at 
the adroitness of the officer. In bringing jealousy into play, 
he had brought truth to light by means of anger, and justice 
had sprung from revenge. The bishop listened to all this in 
silence. When it was finished he asked : 

" Where are this man and woman to be tried? " 

" At the Assizes." 

1 6 Les Miserables 

" And where is the procureur du roi to be tried? " 

A tragic event occurred at D . A man had been con- 
demned to death for murder. The unfortunate prisoner was a 
poorly educated, but not entirely ignorant man, who had been 
a juggler at fairs, and a public letter- writer. The people were 
greatly interested in the trial. The evening before the day 
fixed for the execution of the condemned, the almoner of the 
prison fell ill. A priest was needed to attend the prisoner in 
his last moments. The cure was sent for, but he refused to go, 
saying, " That does not concern me. I have nothing to do with 
such drudgery, or with that mountebank; besides, I am sick 
myself; and moreover it is not my place." When this reply 
was reported to the bishop, he said, " The cure is right. It is 
not his place, it is mine." 

He went, on the instant, to the prison, went down into the 
dungeon of the " mountebank," called him by his name, took 
him by the hand, and talked with him. He passed the whole 
day with him, forgetful of food and sleep, praying to God for 
the soul of the condemned, and exhorting the condemned to 
join with him. He spoke to him the best truths, which are the 
simplest. He was father, brother, friend; bishop for blessing 
only. He taught him everything by encouraging and consoling 
him. This man would have died in despair. Death, for him, 
was like an abyss. Standing shivering upon the dreadful brink, 
he recoiled with horror. He was not ignorant enough to be 
indifferent. The terrible shock of his condemnation had in 
some sort broken here and there that wall which separates us 
from the mystery of things beyond, and which we call life. 
Through these fatal breaches, he was constantly looking beyond 
this world, and he could see nothing but darkness; the bishop 
showed him the light. 

On the morrow when they came for the poor man, the bishop 
was with him. He followed him, and showed himself to the 
eyes of the crowd in his violet camail, with his bishop's cross 
about his neck, side by side with the miserable being, who was 
bound with cords. 

He mounted the cart with him, he ascended the scaffold with 
him. The sufferer, so gloomy and so horror-stricken in the 
evening, was now radiant with hope. He felt that his soul was 
reconciled, and he trusted in God. The bishop embraced him, 
and at the moment when the axe was about to fall, he said to 
him, " whom man kills, him God restoreth to life; whom his 
brethren put away, he findeth the Father. Pray, believe, enter 

Fantine 1 7 

into life ! The Father is there." When he descended from the 
scaffold, something in his look made the people fall back. It 
would be hard to say which was the most wonderful, his pale 
ness or his serenity. As he entered the humble dwelling which 
he smilingly called his palace, he said to his sister, " I have been 
officiating pontifically." 

As the most sublime things are often least comprehended, 
there were those in the city who said, in commenting upon the 
bishop's conduct, that it was affectation, but such ideas were 
confined to the upper classes. The people, who do not look for 
unworthy motives in holy works, admired and were softened. 

As to the bishop, the sight of the guillotine was a shock to 
him, from which it was long before he recovered. 

The scaffold, indeed, when it is prepared and set up, has the 
effect of a hallucination. We may be indifferent to the death 
penalty, and may not declare ourselves, yes or no, so long as 
we have not seen a guillotine with our own eyes. But when 
we see one, the shock is violent, and we are compelled to decide 
and take part, for or against. Some admire it, like Le Maistre ; 
others execrate it, like Beccaria. The guillotine is the concre- 
tion of the law; it is called the Avenger; it is not neutral, and 
does not permit you to remain neutral. He who sees it quakes 
with the most mysterious of tremblings. All social questions 
set up their points of interrogation about this axe. The scaffold 
is vision. The scaffold is not a mere frame, the scaffold is not 
a machine, the scaffold is not an inert piece of mechanism made 
of wood, of iron, and of ropes. It seems a sort of being which 
had some sombre origin of which we can have no idea; one 
would say that this frame sees, that this machine understands, 
that this mechanism comprehends; that this wood, this iron, 
and these ropes, have a will. In the fearful reverie into which 
its presence casts the soul, the awful apparition of the scaffold 
confounds itself with its horrid work. The scaffold becomes 
the accomplice of the executioner; it devours, it eats flesh, and 
it drinks blood. The scaffold is a sort of monster created by 
the judge and the workman, a spectre which seems to live with 
a kind of unspeakable life, drawn from all the death which it 
has wrought. 

Thus the impression was horrible and deep; on the morrow 
of the execution, and for many days, the bishop appeared to 
be overwhelmed. The almost violent calmness of the fatal 
moment had disappeared; the phantom of social justice took 
possession of him. He, who ordinarily looked back upon all 

i 8 Les Miserables 

his actions with a satisfaction so radiant, now seemed to be a 
subject of self-reproach. By times he would talk to himself, 
and in an undertone mutter dismal monologues. One evening 
his sister overheard and preserved the following: " I did not 
believe that it could be so monstrous. It is wrong to be so 
absorbed in the divine law as not to perceive the human law. 
Death belongs to God alone. By what right do men touch that 
unknown thing? " 

With the lapse of time these impressions faded away, and 
were probably effaced. Nevertheless it was remarked that the 
bishop ever after avoided passing by the place of execution. 

M. Myriel could be called at all hours to the bedside of the 
sick and the dying. He well knew that there was his highest 
duty and his greatest work. Widowed or orphan families had 
no need to send for him; he came of himself. He would sit 
silent for long hours by the side of a man who had lost the wife 
whom he loved, or of a mother who had lost her child. As he 
knew the time for silence, he knew also the time for speech. 
Oh, admirable consoler! he did not seek to drown grief in 
oblivion, but to exalt and to dignify it by hope. He would say, 
" Be careful of the way in which you think of the dead. Think 
not of what might have been. Look steadfastly and you shall 
see the living glory of your well-beloved dead in the depths of 
heaven." He believed that faith is healthful. He sought to 
counsel and to calm the despairing man by pointing out to him 
the man of resignation, and to transform the grief which looks 
down into the grave by showing it the grief which looks up to 
the stars. 


THE private life of M. Myriel was full of the same thoughts as 
his public life. To one who could have seen it on the spot, the 

voluntary poverty in which the Bishop of D lived, would 

have been a serious as well as a pleasant sight. 

Like all old men, and like most thinkers, he slept but little, 
but that little was sound. In the morning he devoted an hour 
to meditation, and then said mass, either at the cathedral, or 
in his own house. After mass he took his breakfast of rye bread 
and milk, and then went to work. 

Fantine 19 

A bishop is a very busy man ; he must receive the report of 
the clerk of the diocese, ordinarily a prebendary, every day; 
and nearly every day his grand vicars. He has congregations 
to superintend, licences to grant, all ecclesiastical bookselling to 
examine, parish and diocesan catechisms, prayer-books, etc., 
charges to write, preachings to authorise, cures and mayors to 
make peace between, a clerical correspondence, an administra- 
tive correspondence, on the one hand the government, on the 
other the Holy See, a thousand matters of business. 

What time these various affairs and his devotions and his 
breviary left him, he gave first to the needy, the sick, and the 
afflicted; what time the afflicted, the sick, and the needy left 
him, he gave to labour. Sometimes he used a spade in his 
garden, and sometimes he read and wrote. He had but one 
name for these two kinds of labour; he called them gardening. 
" The spirit is a garden," said he. 

Towards noon, when the weather was good, he would go out 
and walk in the fields, or in the city, often visiting the cottages 
and cabins. He would be seen plodding along, wrapt in his 
thoughts, his eyes bent down, resting upon his long cane, wearing 
his violet doublet, wadded so as to be very warm, violet stockings 
and heavy shoes, and his flat hat, from the three corners of 
which hung the three golden grains of spikenard. 

His coming made a fete. One would have said that he dis- 
pensed warmth and light as he passed along. Old people and 
children would come to their doors for the bishop as they would 
for the sun. He blessed, and was blessed in return. Whoever 
was in need of anything was shown the way to his house. 

Now and then he would stop and talk to the little boys and 
girls and give a smile to their mothers. When he had money 
his visits were to the poor; when he had none, he visited the 

As he made his cassock last a very long time, in order that it 
might not be perceived, he never went out into the city without 
his violet doublet. In summer this was rather irksome. 

On his return he dined. His dinner was like his breakfast. 

At half-past eight in the evening he took supper with his 
sister, Madame Magloire standing behind them and waiting on 
the table. Nothing could be more frugal than this meal. If, 
however, the bishop had one of his cures to supper, Madame 
Magloire improved the occasion to serve her master with some 
excellent fish from the lakes, or some fine game from the moun- 
tain. Every cur6 was a pretext for a fine meal ; the bishop did 

2O Les Miserables 

not interfere. With these exceptions, there was rarely seen 
upon his table more than boiled vegetables, or bread warmed 
with oil. And so it came to be a saying in the city, " When 
the bishop does not entertain a cure, he entertains a 

After supper he would chat for half an hour with Mademoiselle 
Baptistine and Madame Magloire, and then go to his own room 
and write, sometimes upon loose sheets, sometimes on the 
margin of one of his folios. He was a well-read and even a 
learned man. He has left five or six very curious manuscripts 
behind him; among them is a dissertation upon this passage in 
Genesis : In the beginning the spirit of God moved upon the face 
of the waters. He contrasts this with three other versions; the 
Arabic, which has : the winds of God blew ; Flavius Josephus, 
who says : a wind from on high fell upon all the earth ; and 
finally the Chaldean paraphrase of Onkelos, which reads: a 
wind coming from God blew upon the face of the waters. In 
another dissertation, he examines the theological works of Hugo, 
Bishop of Ptolemais, a distant relative of the writer of this 
book, and proves that sundry little tracts, published in the 
last century under the pseudonym of Barleycourt, should be 
attributed to that prelate. 

Sometimes in the midst of his reading, no matter what book 
he might have in his hands, he would suddenly fall into deep 
meditation, and when it was over, would write a few lines on 
whatever page was open before him. These lines often have no 
connection with the book in which they are written. We have 
under our own eyes a note written by him upon the margin of 
a quarto volume entitled: " Correspondance du Lord Germain 
avec les generaux Clinton, Cornwallis, et les amiraux de la Station 
de VAmerique. A Versailles, chez Poincot, Libraire, et d Paris, 
chez Pissot, Quai des Augustins" 

And this is the note: 

"Oh Thou who art! 

" Ecclesiastes names thee the Almighty; Maccabees names 
thee Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians names thee 
Liberty; Baruch names thee Immensity; the Psalms name 
thee Wisdom and Truth; John names thee Light; the book of 
Kings names thee Lord; -Exodus calls thee Providence; Levi- 
ticus, Holiness; Esdras, Justice; Creation calls thee God; man 
names thee Father; but Solomon names thee Compassion, and 
that is the most beautiful of all thy names." 

Towards nine o'clock in the evening the two women were 

Fantinc 2 1 

accustomed to retire to their chambers in the second story, 
leaving him until morning alone upon the lower floor. 

Here it is necessary that we should give an exact idea of the 
dwelling of the Bishop of D . 



THE house which he occupied consisted, as we have said, of a 
ground floor and a second story; three rooms on the ground 
floor, three on the second story, and an attic above. Behind 
the house was a garden of about a quarter of an acre. The 
two women occupied the upper floor; the bishop lived below. 
The first room, which opened upon the street, was his dining- 
room, the second was his bedroom, and the third his oratory. 
You could not leave the oratory without passing through the 
bedroom, and to leave the bedroom you must pass through 
the dining-room. At one end of the oratory there was an alcove 
closed in, with a bed for occasions of hospitality. The bishop 
kept this bed for the country cures when business or the wants 
of their parish brought them to D . 

The pharmacy of the hospital, a little building adjoining the 
house and extending into the garden, had been transformed 
into a kitchen and cellar. 

There was also a stable in the garden, which was formerly the 
hospital kitchen, where the bishop now kept a couple of cows, 
and invariably, every morning, he sent half the milk they gave 
to the sick at the hospital. " I pay my tithes," said he. 

His room was quite large, and was difficult to warm in bad 

weather. As wood is very dear at D , he conceived the 

idea of having a room partitioned off from the cow-stable with 
a tight plank ceiling. In the coldest weather he passed his 
evenings there, and called it his winter parlour. 

In this winter parlour, as in the dining-room, the only furniture 
was a square white wooden table, and four straw chairs. The 
dining-room, however, was furnished with an old sideboard 
stained red. A similar sideboard, suitably draped with white 
linen and imitation-lace, served for the altar which decorated 
the oratory. 

His rich penitents and the pious women of D had often 

contributed the money for a beautiful new altar for monseig- 
oeur's oratory; he had always taken the money and given it 

22 Les Miserables 

to the poor. " The most beautiful of altars," said he, *' is the 
soul of an unhappy man who is comforted and thanks God." 

In his oratory he had two prie-dieu straw chairs, and an arm- 
chair, also of straw, in the bedroom. When he happened to 
have seven or eight visitors at once, the prefect, or the general, 
or the major of the regiment in the garrison, or some of the 
pupils of the little seminary, he was obliged to go to the stable 
for the chairs that were in the winter parlour, to the oratory 
for the prie-dieu, and to the bedroom for the arm-chair; in 
this way he could get together as many as eleven seats for his 
visitors. At each new visit a room was stripped. 

It happened sometimes that there were twelve; then the 
bishop concealed the embarrassment of the situation by standing 
before the fire if it were winter, or by walking in the garden if it 
were summer. 

There was another chair in the stranger's alcove, but it had 
lost half its straw, and had but three legs, so that it could 
be used only when standing against the wall. Mademoiselle 
Baptistine had also, in her room, a very large wooden easy- 
chair, that had once been gilded and covered with flowered 
silk, but as it had to be taken into her room through the window, 
the stairway being too narrow, it could not be counted among 
the movable furniture. 

It had been the ambition of Mademoiselle Baptistine to be able 
to buy a parlour lounge, with cushions of Utrecht velvet, roses 
on a yellow ground, while the mahogany should be in the form 
of swans' necks. But this would have cost at least five hundred 
francs, and as she had been able to save only forty-two francs 
and ten sous for the purpose in five years, she had finally given 
it up. But who ever does attain to his ideal ? 

Nothing could be plainer in its arrangements than the bishop's 
bed-chamber. A window, which was also a door, opening upon 
the garden; facing this, the bed, an iron hospital-bed, with 
green serge curtains ; in the shadow of the bed, behind a screen, 
the toilet utensils, still betraying the elegant habits of the man 
of the world; two doors, one near the chimney, leading into the 
oratory, the other near the book-case, opening into the dining- 
room. The book-case, a large closet with glass doors, filled with 
books ; the fire-place, cased with wood painted to imitate marble, 
usually without fire; in the fire-place, a pair of andirons orna- 
mented with two vases of flowers, once plated with silver, which 
was a kind of episcopal luxury; above the fire-place, a copper 
crucifix, from which the silver was worn off, fixed upon a piece 

Fantine 23 

of thread-bare black velvet in a wooden frame from which the 
gilt was almost gone; near the window, a large table with an 
inkstand, covered with confused papers and heavy volumes. 
In front of the table was the straw arm-chair, and before the 
bed, a prie-dieu from the oratory. 

Two portraits in oval frames hung on the wall on either side 
of the bed. Small gilt inscriptions upon the background of the 
canvas indicated that the portraits represented, one, the Abbe 
de Chaliot, bishop of Saint Claude, the other, the Abbe Tourteau, 
vicar-general of Agde, abbe of Grandchamps, order of Citeaux, 
diocese of Chartres. The bishop found these portraits when he 
succeeded to the hospital patients in this chamber, and left them 
untouched. They were priests, and probably donors to the 
hospital two reasons why he should respect them. All that 
he knew of these two personages was that they had been named 
by the king, the one to his bishopric, the other to his living, on 
the same day, the 2yth of April, 1785. Madame Magloire having 
taken down the pictures to wipe off the dust, the bishop had 
found this circumstance written in a faded ink upon a little 
square piece of paper, yellow with time, stuck with four wafers 
on the back of the portrait of the Abbe of Grandchamps. 

He had at his window an antique curtain of coarse woollen 
stuff, which finally became so old that, to save the expense of 
a new one, Madame Magloire was obliged to put a large patch 
in the very middle of it. This patch was in the form of a cross. 
The bishop often called attention to it. " How fortunate that 
is," he would say. 

Every room in the house, on the ground floor as well as in the 
upper story, without exception, was white-washed, as is the 
custom in barracks and in hospitals. 

However, in later years, as we shall see by-and-by, Madame 
Magloire found, under the wall paper, some paintings which 
decorated the apartment of Mademoiselle Baptistine. Before 
it was a hospital, the house had been a sort of gathering-place 
for the citizens, at which time these decorations were introduced. 
The floors of the chambers were paved with red brick, which 
were scoured every week, and before the beds straw matting 
was spread. In all respects the house was kept by the two 
women exquisitely neat from top to bottom. This was the only 
luxury that the bishop would permit. He would say, " That 
takes nothing from the poor." 

We must confess that he still retained of what he had formerly, 
six silver dishes and a silver soup ladle, which Madame Magloire 

24 Les Miserables 

contemplated every day with new joy as they shone on the 
coarse, white, linen table-cloth. And as we are drawing the 

portrait of the Bishop of D just as he was, we must add that 

he had said, more than once, " It would be difficult for me to 
give up eating from silver." 

With this silver ware should be counted two large, massive 
silver candlesticks which he inherited from a great-aunt. These 
candlesticks held two wax-candles, and their place was upon 
the bishop's mantel. When he had any one to dinner, Madame 
Magloire lighted the two candles and placed the two candlesticks 
upon the table. 

There was in the bishop's chamber, at the head of his bed, a 
small cupboard in which Madame Magloire placed the six silver 
dishes and the great ladle every evening. But the key was never 
taken out of it. 

The garden, which was somewhat marred by the unsightly 
structures of which we have spoken, was laid out with four 
walks, crossing at the drain-well in the centre. There was 
another walk round the garden, along the white wall which 
enclosed it. These walks left four square plats which were 
bordered with box. In three of them Madame Magloire culti- 
vated vegetables; in the fourth the bishop had planted flowers, 
and here and there were a few fruit trees. Madame Magloire 
once said to him with a kind of gentle reproach: " Monseigneur, 
you are always anxious to make everything useful, but yet here 
is a plat that is of no use. It would be much better to have 
salads there than bouquets." " Madame Magloire/' replied the 
bishop, " you are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the 
useful." He added, after a moment's silence, " perhaps more 

This plat, consisting of three or four beds, occupied the bishop 
nearly as much as his books. He usually passed an hour or 
two there, trimming, weeding, and making holes here and there 
in the ground, and planting seeds. He was as much averse 
to insects as a gardener would have wished. He made no pre- 
tentions to botany, and knew nothing of groups or classification; 
he did not care in the least to decide between Tournefort and 
the natural method; he took no part, either for the utricles 
against the cotyledons, or for Jussieu against Linnaeus. He 
did not study plants, he loved flowers. He had much respect 
for the learned, but still more for the ignorant; and, while he 
fulfilled his duty in both these respects, he watered his beds 
every summer evening with a tin watering-pot painted green. 

Fan tine 25 

Jot a door in the house had a lock. The door of the dining- 
room which, we have mentioned, opened into the cathedral 
grounds, was formerly loaded with bars and bolts like the door 
of a prison. The bishop had had all this iron-work taken off, 
and the door, by night as well as by day, was closed only with 
a latch. The passer-by, whatever might be the hour, could 
open it with a simple push. At first the two women had been 
very much troubled at the door being never locked; but Mon- 

seigneur de D said to them: " Have bolts on your own 

doors, if you like." They shared his confidence at last, or at 
least acted as if they shared it. Madame Magloire alone had 
occasional attacks of fear. As to the bishop, the reason for 
this is explained, or at least pointed at in these three lines 
written by him on the margin of a Bible: " This is the shade 
of meaning; the door of a physician should never be closed; 
the door of a priest should always be open." 

In another book, entitled Philosophic de la Science Medicale, 
he wrote this further note: " Am I not a physician as well as 
they ? I also have my patients ; first I have theirs, whom they 
call the sick; and then I have my own, whom I call the unfor- 

Yet again he had written: " Ask not the name of him who 
asks you for a bed. It is especially he whose name is a burden 
to him, who has need of an asylum." 

It occurred to a worthy cure, I am not sure whether it was 
the cur6 of Couloubroux or the cure of Pomprierry, to ask him 
one day, probably at the instigation of Madame Magloire, if 
monseigneur were quite sure that there was not a degree of 
imprudence in leaving his door, day and night, at the mercy 
of whoever might wish to enter, and if he did not fear that some 
evil would befall a house so poorly defended. The bishop 
touched him gently on the shoulder, and said: x " Nisi Dominus 
custodierit domum, in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt earn." 

And then he changed the subject. 

He very often said: " There is a bravery for the priest as 
well as a bravery for the colonel of dragoons." " Only," added 
he, " ours should be quiet." 

1 Unless God protects a house, they who guard it, watch in vain. 

26 Les Miserables 



THIS is the proper place for an incident which we must not omit, 
for it is one of those which most clearly shows what manner of 
man the Bishop of D was. 

After the destruction of the band of Gaspard Bes, which had 
infested the gorges of Ollivolles, one of his lieutenants, Cravatte, 
took refuge in the mountains. He concealed himself for some 
time with his bandits, the remnant of the troop of Gaspard Bes, 
in the county of Nice, then made his way to Piedmont, and 
suddenly reappeared in France in the neighbourhood of Barce- 
lonnette. He was first seen at Jauziers, then at Tuiles. He 
concealed himself in the caverns of the Joug de 1'Aigle, from 
which he made descents upon the hamlets and villages by the 
ravines of Ubaye and Ubayette. 

He even pushed as far as Embrun, and one night broke into 
the cathedral and stripped the sacristy. His robberies desolated 
the country. The gensdarmes were put upon his trail, but in 
vain. He always escaped; sometimes by forcible resistance. 
He was a bold wretch. In the midst of all this terror, the 
bishop arrived. He was making his visit to Chastelar. The 
mayor came to see him, and urged him to turn back. Cravatte 
held the mountains as far as Arche, and beyond; it would 
be dangerous, even with an escort. It would expose three or 
four poor gensdarmes to useless danger. 

" And so," said the bishop, " I intend to go without an 

" Do not think of such a thing," exclaimed the mayor. 

" I think so much of it, that I absolutely refuse the gensdarmes, 
and I am going to start in an hour." 

"To start?" 

" To start." 


" Alone." 

" Monseigneur, you will not do it." 

" There is on the mountain," replied the bishop, " a humble 
little commune, that I have not seen for three years ; and they 
are good friends of mine, kind and honest peasants. They own 
one goat out of thirty that they pasture. They make pretty 
woollen thread of various colours, and they play their mountain 
airs upon small six-holed flutes. They need some one occasion- 

Fantine 27 

ally to tell them of the goodness of God. What would they say 
of a bishop who was afraid ? What would they say if I should 
not go there ? " 

" But, monseigneur, the brigands? " 

" True," said the bishop, " I am thinking of that. You are 
right. I may meet them. They too must need some one to 
tell them of the goodness of God." 

" Monseigneur, but it is a band ! a pack of wolves ! " 

" Monsieur Mayor, perhaps Jesus has made me the keeper of 
that very flock. Who knows the ways of providence ? " 

" Monseigneur, they will rob you." 

" I have nothing." 

" They will kill you." 

" A simple old priest who passes along muttering his prayer? 
No, no; what good would it do them? " 

" Oh, my good sir, suppose you should meet them ! " 

" I should ask them for alms for my poor." 

" Monseigneur, do not go. In the name of heaven! you are 
exposing your life." 

" Monsieur Mayor," said the bishop, " that is just it. I am 
not in the world to care for my life, but for souls." 

He would not be dissuaded. He set out, accompanied only 
by a child, who offered to go as his guide. His obstinacy was 
the talk of the country, and all dreaded the result. 

He would not take along his sister, or Madame Magloire. 
He crossed the mountain on a mule, met no one, and arrived 
safe and sound among his " good friends " the shepherds. He 
remained there a fortnight, preaching, administering the holy 
rites, teaching and exhorting. When he was about to leave, 
he resolved to chant a Te Deum with pontifical ceremonies. 
He talked with the cure" about it. But what could be done? 
there was no episcopal furniture. They could only place at 
his disposal a paltry village sacristy with a few old robes of 
worn-out damask, trimmed with imitation-galloon. 

" No matter," said the bishop. " Monsieur le cure, at the 
sermon announce our Te Deum. That will take care of itself." 

All the neighbouring churches were ransacked, but the 
assembled magnificence of these humble parishes could not 
have suitably clothed a single cathedral singer. 

While they were in this embarrassment, a large chest was 
brought to the parsonage, and left for the bishop by two un- 
known horsemen, who immediately rode away. The chest 
was opened; it contained a cope of cloth of gold, a mitre orna- 

28 Les Miserables 

mented with diamonds, an archbishop's cross, a magnificent 
crosier, all the pontifical raiment stolen a month before from 
the treasures of Our Lady of Embrun. In the chest was a 
paper on which were written these words: " Cravatte to Mon- 
seigneur Bienvenu." 

" I said that it would take care of itself," said the bishop. 
Then he added with a smile : " To him who is contented with 
a cure's surplice, God sends an archbishop's cope." 

" Monseigneur," murmured the cure, with a shake of the head 
and a smile, " God or the devil." 

The bishop looked steadily upon the curd, and replied with 
authority: "God!" 

When he returned to Chastelar, all along the road, the people 
came with curiosity to see him. At the parsonage in Chastelar 
he found Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire waiting 
for him, and he said to his sister, " Well, was I not right? the 
poor priest went among those poor mountaineers with empty 
hands; he comes back with hands filled. I went forth placing 
my trust in God alone ; I bring back the treasures of a cathedral." 

In the evening before going to bed he said further: " Have no 
fear of robbers or murderers. Such dangers are without, and 
are but petty. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the 
real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers 
are within us. What matters it what threatens our heads or 
our purses? Let us think only of what threatens our souls." 

Then turning to his sister: " My sister, a priest should never 
take any precaution against a neighbour. What his neighbour 
does, God permits. Let us confine ourselves to prayer to God 
when we think that danger hangs over us. Let us beseech him, 
not for ourselves, but that our brother may not fall into crime 
on our account." 

To sum up, events were rare in his life. We relate those we 
know of; but usually he passed his life in always doing the same 
things at the same hours. A month of his year was like an hour 
of his day. 

As to what became of the " treasures " of the Cathedral of 
Embrun, it would embarrass us to be questioned on that point. 
There were among them very fine things, and very tempting, and 
very good to steal for the benefit of the unfortunate. Stolen 
they had already been by others. Half the work was done; 
it only remained to change the course of the theft, and to make 
it turn to the side of the poor. We can say nothing more on 
the subject. Except that, there was found among the bishop's 

Fantine 29 

papers a rather obscure note, which is possibly connected with 
this affair, that reads as follows : " The question is, whether this 
ought to be returned to the cathedral or to the hospital" 



THE senator heretofore referred to was an intelligent man, who 
had made his way in life with a directness of purpose which paid 
no attention to all those stumbling-blocks which constitute 
obstacles in men's path, known as conscience, sworn faith, 
justice, and duty; he had advanced straight to his object 
without once swerving in the line of his advancement and his 
interest. He had been formerly a procureur, mollified by success, 
and was not a bad man at all, doing all the little kindnesses that 
he could to his sons, sons-in-law, and relatives generally, and 
even to his friends; having prudently taken the pleasant side 
of life, and availed himself of all the benefits which were thrown 
in his way. Everything else appeared to him very stupid. 
He was sprightly, and just enough of a scholar to think himself 
a disciple of Epicurus, while possibly he was only a product of 
Pigault-Lebrun. He laughed readily and with gusto at infinite 
and eternal things, and at the " crotchets of the good bishop." 
He laughed at them sometimes, with a patronising air, before 
M. Myriel himself, who listened. 

At some semi-official ceremony, Count * * * (this senator) 
and M. Myriel remained to dinner with the prefect. At dessert, 
the senator, a little elevated, though always dignified, exclaimed : 

" Parbleu, Monsieur Bishop; let us talk. It is difficult for 
a senator and a bishop to look each other in the eye without 
winking. We are two augurs. I have a confession to make to 
you; I have my philosophy." 

" And you are right," answered the bishop. " As one makes 
his philosophy, so he rests. You are on a purple bed, Monsieur 

The senator, encouraged by this, proceeded: 

" Let us be good fellows." 

" Good devils, even," said the bishop. 

" I assure you," resumed the senator, " that the Marquis 
d'Argens, Pyrrho, Hobbes, and M. Naigeon are not rascals. 
I have all my philosophers in my library, gilt-edged." 

30 Les Miserables 

" Like yourself, Monsieur le Comte," interrupted the bishop. 

The senator went on : 

" I hate Diderot; he is an idealogist, a demagogue, and a 
revolutionist, at heart believing in God, and more bigoted than 
Voltaire. Voltaire mocked at Needham, and he was wrong; 
for Needham's eels prove that God is useless. A drop of vinegar 
in a spoonful of flour supplied the fiat lux. Suppose the drop 
greater and the spoonful larger, and you have the world. Man 
is the eel. Then what is the use of an eternal Father? Mon- 
sieur Bishop, the Jehovah hypothesis tires me. It is good for 
nothing except to produce people with scraggy bodies and empty 
heads. Down with this great All, who torments me! Hail, 
Zero ! who leaves me quiet. Between us, to open my heart, 
and confess to my pastor, as I ought, I will confess that I have 
common sense. My head is not turned with your Jesus, who 
preaches in every corn-field renunciation and self-sacrifice. It 
is the advice of a miser to beggars. Renunciation, for what? 
Self-sacrifice, to what? I do not see that one wolf immolates 
himself for the benefit of another wolf. Let us dwell, then, with 
nature. We are at the summit, and let us have a higher philo- 
sophy. What is the use of being in a higher position if we can't 
see further than another man's nose? Let us live gaiiy; for 
life is all we have. That man has another life, elsewhere, above, 
below, anywhere I don't believe a single word of it. Ah! I 
am recommended to self-sacrifice and renunciation, that I should 
take care what I do ; that I must break my head over questions 
of good and evil, justice and injustice; over the fas and the 
nefas. Why? Because I shall have to render an account for 
my acts. When ? After death. What a fine dream ! After I 
am dead it will take fine fingers to pinch me. I should like to 
see a shade grasp a handful of ashes. Let us who are initiated, 
and have raised the skirt of Isis, speak the truth; there is 
neither good nor evil; there is only vegetation. Let us seek 
for the real; let us dig into everything. Let us go to the bottom. 
We should scent out the truth, dig in the earth for it, and seize 
upon it. Then it gives you exquisite joy ; then you grow strong, 
and laugh. I am firmly convinced, Monsieur Bishop, that the 
immortality of man is a will-o'-the-wisp. Oh! charming promise. 
Trust it if you will! Adam's letter of recommendation! We 
have souls, and are to become angels, with blue wings to our 
shoulders. Tell me, now, isn't it Tertullian who says that the 
blessed will go from one star to another? Well, we shall be 
the grasshoppers of the skies. And then we shall see God. 

Fantinc 3 1 

Tut tut tut. All these heavens are silly. God is a monstrous 
myth. I shouldn't say that in the Moniteur, of course, but I 
whisper it among my friends. Inter pocula. To sacrifice earth 
to paradise is to leave the substance for the shadow. I am not 
so stupid as to be the dupe of the Infinite. I am nothing; I 
call myself Count Nothing, senator. Did I exist before my birth ? 
No. Shall I, after my death? No. What am I? A little 
dust, aggregated by an organism. What have I to do on this 
earth! I have the choice to suffer or to enjoy. Where will 
suffering lead me? To nothing. But I shall have suffered. 
Where will enjoyment lead me ? To nothing. But I shall have 
enjoyed. My choice is made. I must eat or be eaten, and I 
choose to eat. It is better to be the tooth than the grass. 
Such is my philosophy. After which, as I tell you, there is 
the grave-digger the pantheon for us but all fall into the great 
gulf the end; finis ; total liquidation. This is the vanishing 
point. Death is dead, believe me. I laugh at the idea that there 
is any one there that has anything to say to me. It is an in- 
vention of nurses: Bugaboo for children; Jehovah for men. 
No, our morrow is night. Beyond the tomb are only equal 
nothings. You have been Sardanapalus, or you have been 
Vincent de Paul that amounts to the same nothing. That is 
the truth of it. Let us live, then, above all things; use your 
personality while you have it. In fact, I tell you, Monsieur 
Bishop, I have my philosophy, and I have my philosophers. 
I do not allow myself to be entangled with nonsense. But it 
is necessary there should be something for those who are below 
us, the bare-foots, knife-grinders, and other wretches. Legends 
and chimeras are given them to swallow, about the soul, im- 
mortality, paradise, and the stars. They munch that; they 
spread it on their dry bread. He who has nothing besides, 
has the good God that is the least good he can have. I make 
no objection to it, but I keep Monsieur Naigeon for myself. 
The good God is good for the people." 

The bishop clapped his hands. 

" That is the idea," he exclaimed. " This materialism is an 
excellent thing, and truly marvellous ; reject it who will. Ah! 
when one has it, he is a dupe no more; he does not stupidly 
allow himself to be exiled like Cato, or stoned like Stephen, 
or burnt alive like Joan of Arc. Those who have succeeded in 
procuring this admirable materialism have the happiness of 
feeling that they are irresponsible, and of thinking that they can 
devour everything in quietness places, sinecures, honours,. 

32 Les Miserables 

power rightly or wrongly acquired, lucrative recantations, use- 
ful treasons, savoury capitulations of conscience, and that they 
will enter their graves with their digestion completed. How 
agreeable it is! I do not say that for you, Monsieur Senator. 
Nevertheless, I cannot but felicitate you. You great lords have, 
you say, a philosophy of your own, for your special benefit 
exquisite, refined, accessible to the rich alone; good with all 
sauces, admirably seasoning the pleasures of life. This philo- 
sophy is found at great depths, and brought up by special search. 
But you are good princes, and you are quite willing that the 
belief in the good God should be the philosophy of the people, 
much as goose with onions is the turkey with truffles of the 



To afford an idea of the household of the Bishop of D , and 

the manner in which these two good women subordinated their 
actions, thoughts, even their womanly instincts, so liable to 
disturbance, to the habits and projects of the bishop, so that 
he had not even to speak, in order to express them ; we cannot 
do better than to copy here a letter from Mademoiselle Baptis- 
tine to Madame la Vicomtesse de Boischevron, the friend of her 
childhood. This letter is in our possession: 

D , Dec. i6th, 

" MY DEAR MADAME: Not a day passes that we do not speak 
of you; that is customary enough with us; but we have now 
another reason. Would you believe that in washing and 
dusting the ceilings and walls, Madame Magloire has made 
some discoveries? At present, our two chambers, which were 
hung with old paper, white-washed, would not disparage a 
chateau in the style of your own. Madame Magloire has torn 
off all the paper: it had something underneath. My parlour, 
where there is no furniture and which we use to dry clothes in, 
is fifteen feet high, eighteen feet square, and has a ceiling, once 
painted and gilded, with beams like those of your house. This 
was covered over with canvas during the time it was used as 
a hospital; and then we have wainscoting of the time of our 
grandmothers. But it is my own room which you ought to 
see. Madame Magloire has discovered beneath at least ten 

Fantine 3 3 

thicknesses of paper some pictures, which, though not good, 
are quite endurable. Telemachus received on horseback, by 
Minerva, is one; and then again, he is in the gardens I forget 
their name; another is where the Roman ladies resorted for a 
single night. I could say much more ; I have Romans, men and 
women [here a word is illegible], and all their retinue. Madame 
Magloire has cleaned it all, and this summer she is going to repair 
some little damages, and varnish it, and my room will be a 
veritable museum. She also found in a corner of the storehouse 
two pier tables of antique style; they asked two crowns of six 
livres to reguild them, but it is far better to give that to the 
poor; besides that they are very ugly, and I much prefer a 
round mahogany table. / 

" I am always happy: my brother is so good: he gives all he 
has to the poor and sick. We are full of cares: the weather 
is very severe in the winter, and one must do something for those 
who lack. We at least are warmed and lighted, and you know 
those are great comforts. 

" My brother has his peculiarities ; when he talks he says that 
a bishop ought to be thus. Just think of it that the door is 
never closed. Come in who will, he is at once my brother's 
guest; he fears nothing, not even in the night; he says that is 
his form of bravery. 

" He wishes me not to fear for him, nor that Madame Magloire 
should; he exposes himself to every danger, and prefers that 
we should not even seem to be aware of it; one must know how 
to understand him. 

" He goes out in the rain, walks through the water, travels 
in winter, he has no fear of darkness, or dangerous roads, or of 
those he may meet. 

" Last year he went all alone into a district infested with 
robbers. He would not take us. He was gone a fortnight, 
and when he came back, though we had thought him dead, 
nothing had happened to him, and he was quite well. He said : 
' See, how they have robbed me ! ' And he opened a trunk in 
which he had the jewels of the Embrun Cathedral which the 
robbers had given him. 

" Upon that occasion, on the return, I could not keep from 
scolding him a little, taking care only to speak while the carriage 
made a noise, so that no one could hear us. 

" At first I used to say to myself, he stops for no danger, 
he is incorrigible. But now I have become used to it. I make 
signs to Madame Magloire that she shall not oppose him, and 

34 Les Miserables 

he runs what risks he chooses. I call away Madame Magloire ; 
I go to my room, pray for him, and fall asleep. I am calm, for 
I know very well that if any harm happened to him, it would 
be my death: I should go away to the good Father with my 
brother and my bishop. Madame Magloire has had more 
difficulty in getting used to what she calls his imprudence. Now 
the thing is settled: we pray together; we are afraid together, 
and we go to sleep. Should Satan even come into the house, 
no one would interfere. After all, what is there to fear in this 
house? There is always One with us who is the strongest: 
Satan may visit our house, but the good God inhabits it. 

" That is enough for me. My brother has no need now even 
to speak a word. I understand him without his speaking, and 
we commend ourselves to Providence. 

" It must be so with a man whose soul is so noble. 

" I asked my brother for the information which you requested 
respecting the Faux family. You know how well he knows 
about it, and how much he remembers, for he was always a 
very good royalist, and this is really a very old Norman family, 
of the district of Caen. There are five centuries of a Raoul de 
Faux, Jean de Faux, and Thomas de Faux, who were of the 
gentry, one of whom was a lord of Rochefort. The last was 
Guy Etienne Alexandre, who was a cavalry colonel, and held 
some rank in the light horse of Brittany. His daughter Marie 
Louise married Adrien Charles de Gramont, son of Duke Louis 
de Gramont, a peer of France, colonel of the Gardes Frangaises, 
and lieutenant-general of the army. It is written Faux, Fauq, 
and Faouq. 

" Will you not, my dear madame, ask for us the prayers of 
your holy relative, Monsieur le Cardinal ? As to your precious 
Sylvanie, she has done well not to waste the short time that 
she is with you in writing to me. She is well, you say; studies 
according to your wishes, and loves me still. That is all I could 
desire. Her remembrance, through you, reached me, and I was 
glad to receive it. My health is tolerably good; still I grow 
thinner every day. 

"Farewell: my paper is filled and I must stop. With a 
thousand good wishes, 


" P.S. Your little nephew is charming; do you remember 
that he will soon be five years old ? He saw a horse pass yester- 
day on which they had put knee-caps, and he cried out: ' What 

Fantine 35 

is that he has got on his knees ? ' The child is so pretty. His 
little brother drags an old broom about the room for a carriage, 
and says, hi ! " 

As this letter shows, these two women knew how to conform 
to the bishop's mode of life, with that woman's tact which 
understands a man better than he can comprehend himself. 

Beneath the gentle and frank manner of the Bishop of D , 

which never changed, he sometimes performed great, daring, 
even grand acts, without seeming to be aware of it himself. 
They trembled, but did not interfere. Sometimes Madame 
Magloire would venture a remonstrance beforehand: never at 
the time, or afterwards; no one ever disturbed him by word 
or token in an action once begun. At certain times, when he 
had no need to say it, when, perhaps, he was hardly conscious 
of it, so complete was his artlessness, they vaguely felt that he 
was acting as bishop, and at such periods they were only two 
shadows in the house. They waited on him passively, and if 
to obey was to disappear, they disappeared. With charming 
and instinctive delicacy they knew that obtrusive attentions 
would annoy him; so even when they thought him in danger 
they understood, I will not say his thought, but his nature rather, 
to the degree of ceasing to watch over him. They entrusted 
him to God's keeping. 

Besides, Baptistine said, as we have seen, that his death 
would be hers. Madame Magloire did not say so, but she 
knew it. 



A LITTLE while before the date of the letter quoted in the 
preceding pages, the bishop performed an act, which the whole 
town thought far more perilous than his excursion across the 
mountains infested by the bandits. 

In the country near D , there was a man who lived alone. 

This man, to state the startling fact without preface, had been 
a member of the National Convention. His name was G . 

The little circle of D spoke of the conventionist with a 

certain sort of horror. A conventionist, think of it; that was 
in the time when folks thee-and-thoued one another, and said 
"citizen." This man came very near being a monster; he had 

36 Les Miserables 

not exactly voted for the execution of the king, but almost; he 
was half a regicide, and had been a terrible creature altogether. 
How was it, then, on the return of the legitimate princes, that 
they had not arraigned this man before the provost court? 
He would not have been beheaded, perhaps, but even if clemency 
were necessary he might have been banished for life; in fact, 
an example, etc. etc. Besides, he was an atheist, as all those 
people are. Babblings of geese against a vulture ! 

But was this G a vulture ? Yes, if one should judge him 

by the savageness of his solitude. As he had not voted for the 
king's execution, he was not included in the sentence of exile, 
and could remain in France. 

He lived about an hour's walk from the town, far from any 
hamlet or road, in a secluded ravine of a very wild valley. It 
was said he had a sort of resting-place there, a hole, a den. 
He had no neighbours or even passers-by. Since he had lived 
there the path which led to the place had become overgrown, 
and people spoke of it as of the house of a hangman. 

From time to time, however, the bishop reflectingly gazed 
upon the horizon at the spot where a clump of trees indicated 
the ravine of the aged conventionist, and he would say: " There 
lives a soul which is alone." And in the depths of his thought 
he would add, " I owe him a visit." 

But this idea, we must confess, though it appeared natural 
at first, yet, after a few moments' reflection, seemed strange, im- 
practicable, and almost repulsive. For at heart he shared the 
general impression, and the conventionist inspired him, he knew 
not how, with that sentiment which is the fringe of hatred, 
and which the word " aversion " so well expresses. 

However, the shepherd should not recoil from the diseased 
sheep. Ah ! but what a sheep ! 

The good bishop was perplexed: sometimes he walked in 
that direction, but he returned. 

At last, one day the news was circulated in the town 

that the young herdsboy who served the conventionist G 

in his retreat, had come for a doctor; that the old wretch was 
dying, that he was motionless, and could not live through the 
night. " Thank God ! " added many. 

The bishop took his cane, put on his overcoat, because his 
cassock was badly worn, as we have said, and besides the night 
wind was evidently rising, and set out. 

The sun was setting; it had nearly touched the horizon when 
the bishop reached the accursed spot. He felt a certain quicken- 

Fantine 37 

ing of the pulse as he drew near the den. He jumped over a 
ditch, cleared a hedge, made his way through a brush fence, 
found himself in a dilapidated garden, and after a bold advance 
across the open ground, suddenly, behind some high brushwood, 
he discovered the retreat. 

It was a low, poverty-stricken hut, small and clean, with a 
little vine nailed up in front. 

Before the door in an old chair on rollers, there sat a man with 
white hair, looking with smiling gaze upon the setting sun. 

The young herdsboy stood near him, handing him a bowl of 

While the bishop was looking, the old man raised his voice. 

" Thank you," he said, " I shall need nothing more; " and his 
smile changed from the sun to rest upon the boy. 

The bishop stepped forward. At the sound of his footsteps 
the old man turned his head, and his face expressed as much 
surprise as one can feel after a long life. 

" This is the first time since I have lived here," said he, " that 
I have had a visitor. Who are you, monsieur? " 

" My name is Bienvenu-Myriel," the bishop replied. 

" Bienvenu-Myriel ? I have heard that name before. Are 
you he whom the people call Monseigneur Bienvenu? " 

" I am." 

The old man continued half-smiling. " Then you are my 
bishop ? " 

" Possibly." 

" Come in, monsieur." 

The conventionist extended his hand to the bishop, but he 
did not take it. He only said: 

" I am glad to find that I have been misinformed. You do 
not appear to me very ill." 

" Monsieur," replied the old man, " I shall soon be better." 

He paused and said: 

" I shall be dead in three hours." 

Then he continued : 

" I am something of a physician; I know the steps by which 
death approaches; yesterday my feet only were cold; to-day 
the cold has crept to my knees, now it has reached the waist; 
when it touches the heart, all will be over. The sunset is lovely, 
is it not ? I had myself wheeled out to get a final look at nature. 
You can speak to me; that will not tire me. You do well to 
come to see a man who is dying. It is good that these moments 
should have witnesses. Every one has his fancy ; I should like 

38 Les Miserables 

to live until the dawn, but I know I have scarcely life for three 
hours. It will be night, but what matters it: to finish is a 
very simple thing. One does not need morning for that. Be it 
so: I shall die in the starlight." 

The old man turned towards the herdsboy : 

" Little one, go to bed : thou didst watch the other night : thou 
art weary." 

The child went into the hut. 

The old man followed him with his eyes, and added, as if 
speaking to himself : " While he is sleeping, I shall die : the two 
slumbers keep fit company." 

The bishop was not as much affected as he might have been: 
it was not his idea of godly death; we must tell all, for the little 
inconsistencies of great souls should be mentioned ; he who had 
laughed so heartily at " His Highness," was still slightly shocked 
at not being called monseigneur, and was almost tempted to 
answer " citizen." He felt a desire to use the brusque familiarity 
common enough with doctors and priests, but which was not 
customary with him. 

This conventionist after all, this representative of the people, 
had been a power on the earth; and perhaps for the first time 
in his life the bishop felt himself in a humour to be severe. The 
conventionist, however, treated him with a modest consideration 
and cordiality, in which perhaps might have been discerned 
that humility which is befitting to one so nearly dust unto dust. 

The bishop, on his part, although he generally kept himself 
free from curiosity, which to his idea was almost offensive, could 
not avoid examining the conventionist with an attention for 
which, as it had not its source in sympathy, his conscience would 
have condemned him as to any other man ; but a conventionist 
he looked upon as an outlaw, even to the law of charity. 

G , with his self-possessed manner, erect figure, and 

vibrating voice, was one of those noble octogenarians who are 
the marvel of the physiologist. The revolution produced many 
of these men equal to the epoch : one felt that here was a tested 
man. Though so near death, he preserved all the appearance 
of health. His bright glances, his firm accent, and the muscular 
movements of his shoulders seemed almost sufficient to dis- 
concert death. Azrael, the Mahometan angel of the sepulchre, 
would have turned back, thinking he had mistaken the door. 

G appeared to be dying because he wished to die. There 

was freedom in his agony; his legs only were paralysed; his 
feet were cold and dead, but his head lived in full power of life 

Fantinc 39 

and light. At this solemn moment G seemed like the king 

in the oriental tale, flesh above and marble below. The bishop 
seated himself upon a stone near by. The beginning of their 
conversation was ex abrupto : 

" I congratulate you," he said, in a tone of reprimand. " At 
least you did not vote for the execution of the king." 

The conventionist did not seem to notice the bitter emphasis 
placed upon the words " at least." The smiles vanished from 
his face, and he replied : 

" Do not congratulate me too much, monsieur; I did vote 
for the destruction of the tyrant." 

And the tone of austerity confronted the tone of severity. 

" What do you mean? " asked the bishop. 

" I mean that man has a tyrant, Ignorance. I voted for the 
abolition of that tyrant. That tyrant has begotten royalty, 
which is authority springing from the False, while science is 
authority springing from the True. Man should be governed 
by science." 

" And conscience," added the bishop. 

" The same thing: conscience is innate knowledge that we 

Monsieur Bienvenu listened with some amazement to this 
language, novel as it was to him. 

The conventionist went on: 

" As to Louis XVI.: I said no. I do not believe that I have 
the right to kill a man, but I feel it a duty to exterminate evil. 
I voted for the downfall of the tyrant; that is to say, for the 
abolition of prostitution for woman, of slavery for man, of night 
for the child. In voting for the republic I voted for that: I 
voted for fraternity, for harmony, for light. I assisted in casting 
down prejudices and errors: their downfall brings light! We 
caused the old world to fall; the old world, a vase of misery, 
reversed, becomes an urn of joy to the human race." 

" Joy alloyed," said the bishop. 

" You might say joy troubled, and, at present, after this fatal 
return of the blast which we call 1814, joy disappeared. Alas I 
the work was imperfect I admit; we demolished the ancient 
order of things physically, but not entirely in the idea. To 
destroy abuses is not enough; habits must be changed. The 
windmill has gone, but the wind is there yet." 

" You have demolished. To demolish may be useful, but I 
distrust a demolition effected in anger ! " 

" Justice has its anger, Monsieur Bishop, and the wrath of 

4-O Les Miserables 

justice is an element of progress. Whatever may be said matters 
not, the French revolution is the greatest step in advance taken 
by mankind since the advent of Christ; incomplete it may be, 
but it is sublime. It loosened all the secret bonds of society, 
it softened all hearts, it calmed, appeased, enlightened; it 
made the waves of civilisation to flow over the earth; it was 
good. The French revolution is the consecration of humanity." 

The bishop could not help murmuring: " Yes, '93! " 

The conventionist raised himself in his chair with a solemnity 
well nigh mournful, and as well as a dying person could exclaim, 
he exclaimed: 

" Ah 1 you are there ! '93 ! I was expecting that. A cloud 
had been forming for fifteen hundred years ; at the end of fifteen 
centuries it burst. You condemn the thunderbolt." 

Without perhaps acknowledging it to himself, the bishop felt 
that he had been touched; however, he made the best of it, and 
replied : 

" The judge speaks in the name of justice, the priest in the 
name of pity, which is only a more exalted justice. A thunder- 
bolt should not be mistaken." 

And he added, looking fixedly at the conventionist; " Louis 

The conventionist stretched out his hand and seized the 
bishop's arm. 

" Louis XVII. Let us see! For whom do you weep? for 
the innocent child? It is well; I weep with you. For the 
royal child? I ask time to reflect. To my view the brother 
of Cartouche, an innocent child, hung by a rope under his arms 
in the Place de Greve till he died, for the sole crime of being the 
brother of Cartouche, is no less sad sight than the grandson of 
Louis XV., an innocent child, murdered in the tower of the 
Temple for the sole crime of being the grandson of Louis XV." 

" Monsieur," said the bishop, " I dislike this coupling of 

" Cartouche or Louis XV. ; for which are you concerned ? " 

There was a moment of silence; the bishop regretted almost 
that he had come, and yet he felt strangely and inexplicably 

The conventionist resumed: "Oh, Monsieur Priest! you do 
not love the harshness of the truth, but Christ loved it. He 
took a scourge and purged the temple; his flashing whip was 
a rude speaker of truths; when he said " Sinite parvulos" he 
made no distinctions among the little ones. He was not pained 

Fantine 41 

at coupling the dauphin of Barabbas with the dauphin of Herod< 
Monsieur, innocence is its own crown! Innocence has only to 
act to be noble ! She is as august in rags as in the fleur de lys." 

" That is true," said the bishop, in a low tone. 

" I repeat," continued the old man; " you have mentioned 
Louis XVII. Let us weep together for all the innocent, for all 
the martyrs, for all the children, for the low as well as for the 
high. I am one of them, but then, as I have told you, we must 
go further back than '93, and our tears must begin before Louis 
XVII. I will weep for the children of kings with you, if you 
will weep with me for the little ones of the people." 

" I weep for all," said the bishop. 

" Equally," exclaimed G , " and if the balance inclines, 

let it be on the side of the people; they have suffered longer." 

There was silence again, broken at last by the old man. He 
raised himself upon one elbow, took a pinch of his cheek between 
his thumb and his bent forefinger, as one does mechanically in 
questioning and forming an opinion, and addressed the bishop 
with a look full of all the energies of agony. It was almost an 

" Yes, Monsieur, it is for a long time that the people have been 
suffering, and then, sir, that is not all; why do you come to 
question me and to speak to me of Louis XVII. ? I do not know 
you. Since I have been in this region I have lived within these 
walls alone, never passing beyond them, seeing none but this 
child who helps me. Your name, has, it is true, reached me 
confusedly, and I must say not very indistinctly, but that 
matters not. Adroit men have so many ways of imposing upon 
this good simple people. For instance I did not hear the sound 
of your carriage. You left it doubtless behind the thicket, down 
there at the branching of the road. You have told me that you 
were the bishop, but that tells me nothing about your moral 
personality. Now, then, I repeat my question Who are you? 
You are a bishop, a prince of the church, one of those men who 
are covered with gold, with insignia, and with wealth, who have 

fat livings the see of D , fifteen thousand francs regular, 

ten thousand francs contingent, total twenty-five thousand 
francs who have kitchens, who have retinues, who give good 
dinners, who eat moor-hens on Friday, who strut about in your 
gaudy coach, like peacocks, with lackeys before and lackeys 
behind, and who have palaces, and who roll in your carriages 
in the name of Jesus Christ who went bare-footed. You are 
a prelate; rents, palaces, horses, valets, a good table, all the 

42 Les Miserables 

sensualities of life, you have these, like all the rest, and you 
enjoy them like all the rest; very well, but that says too much 
or not enough; that does not enlighten me as to your intrinsic 
worth, that which is peculiar to yourself, you who come probably 
with the claim of bringing me wisdom. To whom am I speaking ? 
Who are you ? " 

The bishop bowed his head and replied, " Vermis sum." 

" A worm of the earth in a carriage! " grumbled the old man. 

It was the turn of the conventionist to be haughty, and of the 
bishop to be humble. 

The bishop replied with mildness : 

" Monsieur, be it so. But explain to me how my carriage, 
which is there a few steps behind the trees, how my good table 
and the moor-fowl that I eat on Friday, how my twenty-five 
thousand livres of income, how my palace and my lackeys 
prove that pity is not a virtue, that kindness is not a duty, and 
that '93 was not inexorable? " 

The old man passed his hand across his forehead as if to dispel 
a cloud. 

" Before answering you," said he, " I beg your pardon. I 
have done wrong, monsieur; you are in my house, you are my 
guest. I owe you courtesy. You are discussing my ideas; 
it is fitting that I confine myself to combating your reasoning. 
Your riches and your enjoyments are advantages that I have 
over you in the debate, but it is not in good taste to avail myself 
of them. I promise you to use them no more." 

" I thank you," said the bishop. 

G went on : 

" Let us get back to the explanation that you asked of me. 
Where were we? What were you saying to me? that '93 was 
inexorable? " 

" Inexorable, yes," said the bishop. " What do you think 
of Marat clapping his hands at the guillotine ? " 

" What do you think of Bossuet chanting the Te Deum over 
the dragonnades? " 

The answer was severe, but it reached its aim with the keen- 
ness of a dagger. The bishop was staggered, no reply presented 
itself; but it shocked him to hear Bossuet spoken of in that 
manner. The best men have their fetishes, and sometimes they 
feel almost crushed at the little respect that logic shows 

The conventionist began to gasp; the agonising asthma, 
which mingles with the latest breath, made his voice broken; 

Fantine 43 

nevertheless, his soul yet appeared perfectly lucid in his eyes. 
He continued: 

" Let us have a few more words here and there I would like 
it. Outside of the revolution which, taken as a whole, is an 
immense human affirmation, '93, alas! is a reply. You think 
it inexorable, but the whole monarchy, monsieur? Carrier is 
a bandit; but what name do you give to Montrevel ? Fouquier- 
Tainville is a wretch; but what is your opinion of Lamoignon 
Baville ? Maillard is frightful, but Saulx Tavannes, if you please ? 
Le pere Duchene is ferocious, but what epithet will you furnish 
me for Le p&re Letellier ? Jourdan-Coupe-Tete is a monster, but 
less than the Marquis of Louvois. Monsieur, monsieur, I lament 
Marie Antoinette, archduchess and queen, but I lament also that 
poor Huguenot woman who, in 1685, under Louis le Grand, 
monsieur, while nursing her child, was stripped to the waist 
and tied to a post, while her child was held before her; her 
breast swelled with milk, and her heart with anguish; the little 
one, weak and famished, seeing the breast, cried with agony; 
and the executioner said to the woman, to the nursing mother, 
' Recant ! ' giving her the choice between the death of her child 
and the death of her conscience. What say you to this Tantalus 
torture adapted to a mother? Monsieur, forget not this; the 
French revolution had its reasons. Its wrath will be pardoned 
by the future; its result is a better world. From its most 
terrible blows comes a caress for the human race. I must be 
brief. I must stop. I have too good a cause ; and I am dying." 

And, ceasing to look at the bishop, the old man completed his 
idea in these few tranquil words: 

" Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When 
they are over, this is recognised : that the human race has been 
harshly treated, but that it has advanced." 

The conventionist thought that he had borne down succes- 
sively one after the other all the interior intrenchments of the 
bishop. There was one left, however, and from this, the last 
resource of Monseigneur Bienvenu's resistance, came forth these 
words, in which nearly all the rudeness of the exordium re- 

" Progress ought to believe in God. The good cannot have 
an impious servitor. An atheist is an evil leader of the human 

The old representative of the people did not answer. He 
was trembling. He looked up into the sky, and a tear gathered 
slowly in his eye. When the lid was full, the tear rolled down 

44 Les Miserables 

his livid cheek, and he said, almost stammering, low, and talking 
to himself, his eye lost in the depths: 

" O thou 1 ideal ! thou alone dost exist ! " 

The bishop felt a kind of inexpressible emotion. 

After brief silence, the old man raised his finger towards 
heaven, and said: 

"The infinite exists. It is there. If the infinite had no 
me, the me would be its limit; it would not be the infinite; in 
other words, it would not be. But it is. Then it has a me. 
This me of the infinite is God." 

The dying man pronounced these last words in a loud voice, 
and with a shudder of ecstasy, as if he saw some one. When 
he ceased, his eyes closed. The effort had exhausted him. It 
was evident that he had lived through in one minute the few 
hours that remained to him. What he had said had brought 
him near to him who is in death. The last moment was at hand. 

The bishop perceived it, time was pressing. He had come 
as a priest; from extreme coldness he had passed by degrees 
to extreme emotion; he looked upon those closed eyes, he took 
that old, wrinkled, and icy hand, and drew closer to the dying 

" This hour is the hour of God. Do you not think it would 
be a source of regret, if we should have met in vain? " 

The conventionist re-opened his eyes. Calmness was im- 
printed upon his face, where there had been a cloud. 

" Monsieur Bishop," s^id he, with a deliberation which perhaps 
came still more from the dignity of his soul than from the ebb 
of his strength, " I have passed my life in meditation, study, 
and contemplation. I was sixty years old when my country 
called me, and ordered me to take part in her affairs. I obeyed. 
There were abuses, I fought them; there were tyrannies, I 
destroyed them; there were rights and principles, I proclaimed 
and confessed them. The soil was invaded, I defended it; 
France was threatened, I offered her my breast. I was not 
rich; I am poor. I was one of the masters of the state, the 
vaults of the bank were piled with specie, so that we had to 
strengthen the walls or they would have fallen under the weight 
of gold and of silver; I dined in the Rue de 1'Arbre-Sec at twenty- 
two sous for the meal. I succoured the oppressed, I solaced the 
suffering. True, I tore the drapery from the altar; but it was 
to staunch the wounds of the country. I have always supported 
the forward march of the human race towards the light, and I 
have sometimes resisted a progress which was without pity. 

Fantine 45 

I have, on occasion, protected my own adversaries, your friends. 
There is at Peteghem in Flanders, at the very place where the 
Merovingian kings had their summer palace, a monastery of 
Urbanists, the Abbey of Sainte Claire in Beaulieu, which I 
saved in 1793; I have done my duty according to my strength, 
and the good that I could. After which I was hunted, hounded, 
pursued, persecuted, slandered, railed at, spit upon, cursed, 
proscribed. For many years now, with my white hairs, I have 
perceived that many people believed they had a right to despise 
me; to the poor, ignorant crowd I have the face of the damned, 
and I accept, hating no man myself, the isolation of hatred. 
Now I am eighty-six years old ; I am about to die. What have 
you come to ask of me? " 

" Your benediction," said the bishop. And he fell upon his 

When the bishop raised his head, the face of the old man had 
become august. He had expired. 

The bishop went home deeply absorbed in thought. He spent 
the whole night in prayer. The next day, some persons, em- 
boldened by curiosity, tried to talk with him of the conventionist 
G ; he merely pointed to Heaven. 

From that moment he redoubled his tenderness and brotherly 
love for the weak and the suffering. 

Every allusion to " that old scoundrel G ," threw him into 

a strange reverie. No one could say that the passage of that 
soul before his own, and the reflex of that grand conscience upon 
his own had not had its effect upon his approach to perfection. 

This " pastoral visit " was of course an occasion for criticism 
by the little local coteries of the place. 

" Was the bed-side of such a man as that the place for a 
bishop? Of course he could expect no conversion there. All 
these revolutionists are backsliders. Then why go there? 
What had he been there to see? He must have been very 
curious to see a soul carried away by the devil." 

One day a dowager, of that impertinent variety who think 
themselves witty, addressed this sally to him. " Monseigneur, 
people ask when your Grandeur will have the red bonnet." 
" Oh ! ho ! that is a high colour," replied the bishop. " Luckily 
those who despise it in a bonnet, venerate it in a hat," 

46 Les Miserables 



WE should be very much deceived if we supposed from this 
that Monseigneur Bienvenu was " a philosopher bishop," or 
" a patriot cure." His meeting, which we might almost call 

his communion with the conventionist G , left him in a 

state of astonishment which rendered him still more charitable ; 
that was all. 

Although Monseigneur Bienvenu was anything but a politician, 
we ought here perhaps to point out very briefly his position 
in relation to the events of the day, if we may suppose that 
Monseigneur Bienvenu ever thought of having a position. 

For this we must go back a few years. 

Some time after the elevation of M. Myriel to the episcopacy, 
the emperor made him a baron of the empire, at the same time 
with several other bishops. The arrest of the pope took place, 
as we know, on the night of the 5th of July, 1809; on that 
occasion, M. Myriel was called by Napoleon to the synod of 
the bishops of France and Italy, convoked at Paris. This 
synod was held at Notre Dame, and commenced its sessions 
on the i5th of June, 1811, under the presidency of Cardinal 
Fesch. M. Myriel was one of the ninety-five bishops who were 
present. But he attended only one sitting, and three or four 
private conferences. Bishop of a mountain diocese, living so 
near to nature, in rusticity and privation, he seemed to bring 
among these eminent personages ideas that changed the tem- 
perature of the synod. He returned very soon to D . 

When asked about this sudden return, he answered : " / annoyed 
them. The jree air went in with me. I had the effect of an open 

Another time, he said : " What would you have 1 Those 
prelates are princes. 1 am only a poor peasant bishop." 

The fact is, that he was disliked. Among other strange 
things, he had dropped the remark one evening when he 
happened to be at the house of one of his colleagues of the 
highest rank: "What fine clocks! fine carpets! fine liveries! 
This must be very uncomfortable. Oh ! how unwilling I should 
be to have all these superfluities crying for ever in my ears: 
' There are people who hunger ! there are people who are cold I 
there are poor ! there are poor ! ' ' 

We must say, by the way, that the hatred of luxury is not 

Fantine 47 

an intelligent hatred. It implies a hatred of the arts. Never- 
theless, among churchmen, beyond their rites and ceremonies, 
luxury is a crime. It seems to disclose habits which are not 
truly charitable. A wealthy priest is a contradiction. He 
ought to keep himself near the poor. But, who can be in 
contact continually, by night as well as day, with all distresses, 
all misfortunes, all privations, without taking upon himself 
a little of that holy poverty, like the dust of a journey? Can 
you imagine a man near a fire, who does not feel warm? Can 
you imagine a labourer working constantly at a furnace, who 
has not a hair burned, nor a nail blackened, nor a drop of sweat, 
nor a speck of ashes on his face? The first proof of charity in 
a priest, and especially a bishop, is poverty. 

That is doubtless the view which the Bishop of D took 

of it. 

It must not be thought, however, that he took part in the 
delicate matters which would be called " the ideas of the age." 
He had little to do with the theological quarrels of the moment, 
and kept his peace on questions where the church and the state 
were compromised; but if he had been pressed, he would have 
been found rather Ultramontane than Gallican. As we are 
drawing a portrait, and can make no concealment, we are com- 
pelled to add that he was very cool towards Napoleon in the 
decline of his power. After 1813, he acquiesced in, or applauded 
all the hostile manifestations. He refused to see him as he 
passed on his return from the island of Elba, and declined to 
order in his diocese public prayers for the emperor during the 
Hundred Days. 

Besides his sister, Mademoiselle Baptistine, he had two 
brothers; one, a general, the other, a prefect. He wrote 
occasionally to both. He felt a coolness towards the first, 
because, being in a command in Provence, at the time of the 
landing at Cannes, the general placed himself at the head of 
twelve hundred men, and pursued the emperor as if he wished 
to let him escape. His correspondence was more affectionate 
with the other brother, the ex-prefect, a brave and worthy man, 
who lived in retirement at Paris, in the Rue Cassette. 

Even Monseigneur Bienvenu then had his hour of party spirit, 
his hour of bitterness, his clouds. The shadow of the passions 
of the moment passed over this great and gentle spirit in its 
occupation with eternal things. Certainly, such a man deserved 
to escape political opinions. Let no one misunderstand our 
idea; we do not confound what are called " political opinions " 

48 Les Miserables 

with that grand aspiration after progress, with that sublime 
patriotic, democratic, and human faith, which, in our days, 
should be the very foundation of all generous intelligence. 
Without entering into questions which have only an indirect 
bearing upon the subject of this book, we simply say: it would 
have been well if Monseigneur Bienvenu had not been a royalist, 
and if his eyes had never been turned for a single instant from 
that serene contemplation where, steadily shining, above the 
fictions and the hatreds of this world, above the stormy ebb 
and flow of human affairs, are seen those three pure luminaries, 
Truth, Justice, and Charity. 

Although we hold that it was not for a political function that 
God created Monseigneur Bienvenu, we could have understood 
and admired a protest in the name of right and liberty, a fierce 
opposition, a perilous and just resistance to Napoleon when he 
was all-powerful. But what is pleasing to us towards those 
who are rising, is less pleasing towards those who are falling. 
We do not admire the combat when there is no danger; 
and in any case, the combatants of the first hour have alone 
the right to be the exterminators in the last. He who has not 
been a determined accuser during prosperity, ought to hold his 
peace in the presence of adversity. He only who denounces 
the success at one time had a right to proclaim the justice of 
the downfall. As for ourselves, when providence intervened 
and struck the blow, we took no part; 1812 began to disarm 
us. In 1813, the cowardly breach of silence on the part of 
that taciturn Corps Legislatif, emboldened by catastrophe, was 
worthy only of indignation, and it was base to applaud it; 
in 1814, from those traitorous marshals, from that senate passing 
from one baseness to another, insulting where they had deified, 
from that idolatry recoiling and spitting upon its idol, it was a 
duty to turn away in disgust; in 1815, when the air was filled 
with the final disasters, when France felt the thrill of their 
sinister approach, when Waterloo could already be dimly per- 
ceived opening before Napoleon, the sorrowful acclamations 
of the army and of the people to the condemned of destiny, 
were no subjects for laughter; and making every reservation 

as to the despot, a heart like that of the Bishop of D ought 

not perhaps to have refused to see what was august and touching, 
on the brink of the abyss, in the last embrace of a great nation 
and a great man. 

To conclude: he was always and in everything just, true, 
equitable, intelligent, humble, and worthy, beneficent, and 

Fantine 49 

benevolent, which is another beneficence. He was a priest, 
a sage, and a man. We must say even that in those political 
opinions which we have been criticising, and which we are 
disposed to judge almost severely, he was tolerant and yielding, 
perhaps more than we, who now speak. The doorkeeper of the 
City Hall had been placed there by the emperor. He was an 
old subaltern officer of the Old Guard, a legionary of Austerlitz, 
and as staunch a Bonapartist as the eagle. This poor fellow 
sometimes thoughtlessly allowed words to escape him which the 
law at that time defined as seditious matters. Since the profile 
of the emperor had disappeared from the Legion of Honour, 
he had never worn his badge, as he said, that he might not be 
compelled to bear his cross. In his devotion he had himself 
removed the imperial effigy from the cross that Napoleon had 
given him ; it left a hole, and he would put nothing in its place. 
" Better die," said he, " than wear the three toads over my heart." 
He was always railing loudly at Louis XVIII. " Old gouty- foot 
with his English spatterdashes I " he would say, " let him go to 
Prussia with his goafs-beard" happy to unite in the same im- 
precation the two things that he most detested, Prussia and 
England. He said so much that he lost his place. There he 
was without bread, and in the street with his wife and children. 
The bishop sent for him, scolded him a little, and made him 
doorkeeper in the cathedral. 

In nine years, by dint of holy works and gentle manners, 

Monseigneur Bienvenu had filled the City of D with a kind 

of tender and filial veneration. Even his conduct towards 
Napoleon had been accepted and pardoned in silence by the 
people, a good, weak flock, who adored their emperor, but who 
loved their bishop. 



THERE is almost always a squad of young abbes about a bishop 
as there is a flock of young officers about a general. They are 
what the charming St. Francis de Sales somewhere calls " white- 
billed priests." Every profession has its aspirants who make 
up the cortege of those who are at the summit. No power is 
without its worshippers, no fortune without its court. The 
seekers of the future revolve about the splendid present. Every 
capital, like every general, has its staff. Every bishop of influ- 

50 Les Miserables 

ence has his patrol of under-graduates, cherubs who go the 
rounds and keep order in the episcopal palace, and who mount 
guard over monseigneur's smile. To please a bishop is a foot 
in the stirrup for a sub-deacon. One must make his own way ; 
the apostolate never disdains the canonicate. 

And as there are elsewhere rich coronets so there are in the 
church rich mitres. There are bishops who stand well at court, 
rich, well endowed, adroit, accepted of the world, knowing how 
to pray, doubtless, but knowing also how to ask favours ; making 
themselves without scruple the viaduct of advancement for a 
whole diocese; bonds of union between the sacristy and diplo- 
macy; rather abbes than priests, prelates rather than bishops. 
Lucky are they who can get near them. Men of influence as 
they are, they rain about them, upon their families and 
favourites, and upon all of these young men who please them, 
fat parishes, livings, archdeaconates, almonries, and cathedral 
functions steps towards episcopal dignities. In advancing 
themselves they advance their satellites; it is a whole solar 
system in motion. The rays of their glory empurple their suite. 
Their prosperity scatters its crumbs to those who are behind the 
scenes, in the shape of nice little promotions. The larger the 
diocese of the patron, the larger the curacy for the favourite. 
And then there is Rome. A bishop who can become an arch- 
bishop, an archbishop who can become a cardinal, leads you tc 
the conclave; you enter into the rota, you have the pallium, 
you are auditor, you are chamberlain, you are monseigneur, 
and from grandeur to eminence there is only a step, and between 
eminence and holiness there is nothing but the whiff of a ballot. 
Every cowl may dream of the tiara. The priest is, in our days, 
the only man who can regularly become a king; and what a 
king ! the supreme king. So, what a nursery of aspirations is 
a seminary. How many blushing chorus boys, how many 
young abbes, have the ambitious dairymaid's pail of milk on 
their heads! Who knows how easily ambition disguises itself 
under the name of a calling, possibly in good faith, and deceiving 
itself, saint that it is ! 

Monseigneur Bienvenu, an humble, poor, private person, was 
not counted among the rich mitres. This was plain from the 
entire absence of young priests about him. We have seen that 
at Paris " he did not take." No glorious future dreamed of 
alighting upon this solitary old man. No young ambition was 
foolish enough to ripen in his shadow. His canons and his 
grand-vicars were good old men, rather common like himself, 

Fantine 5 1 

and like him immured in that diocese, from which there was no 
road to promotion, and they resembled their bishop, with this 
difference, that they were finished, and he was perfected. The 
impossibility of getting on under Monseigneur Bienvenu was so 
plain, that as soon as they were out of the seminary, the young 
men ordained by him procured recommendations to the Arch- 
bishop of Aix or of Auch, and went immediately to present them. 
For, we repeat, men like advancement. A saint who is addicted 
to abnegation is a dangerous neighbour; he is very likely to 
communicate to you by contagion an incurable poverty, an 
anchylosis of the articulations necessary to advancement, 
and, in fact, more renunciation than you would like; and rflen 
flee from this contagious virtue. Hence the isolation of Mon- 
seigneur Bienvenu. We live in a sad society. Succeed; that 
is the advice which falls drop by drop, from the overhanging 

We may say, by the way, that success is a hideous thing. Its 
counterfeit of merit deceives men. To the mass, success has 
almost the same appearance as supremacy. Success, that pre- 
tender to talent, has a dupe history. Juvenal and Tacitus only 
reject it. In our days, a philosophy which is almost an official 
has entered into its service, wears its livery, and waits in its 
antechamber. Success; that is the theory. Prosperity sup- 
poses capacity. Win in the lottery, and you are an able man. 
The victor is venerated. To be born with a caul is everything. 
Have but luck, and you will have the rest; be fortunate, and 
you will be thought great. Beyond the five or six great excep- 
tions, which are the wonder of their age, contemporary admira- 
tion is nothing but shortsightedness. Gilt is gold. To be a 
chance comer is no drawback, provided you have improved your 
chances. The common herd is an old Narcissus, who adores 
himself, and who applauds the common. That mighty genius, 
by which one becomes a Moses, an ^Eschylus, a Dante, a Michael 
Angelo, or a Napoleon, the multitude assigns at once and by 
acclamation to whoever succeeds in his object, whatever it may 
be. Let a notary rise to be a deputy; let a sham Corneille 
write Tiridate ; let a eunuch come into the possession of a harem ; 
let a military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle 
of an epoch ; let an apothecary invent pasteboard soles for army 
shoes, and lay up, by selling this pasteboard instead of leather for 
the army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, four hundred thousand livres 
in the funds ; let a pack-pedlar espouse usury and bring her to 
bed of seven or eight millions, of which he is the father and she 

52 Les Miserables 

the mother; let a preacher become a bishop by talking through 
his nose; let the steward of a good house become so rich on 
leaving service that he is made Minister of Finance ; men call 
that Genius, just as they call the face of Mousqueton, Beauty, 
and the bearing of Claude, Majesty. They confound the radiance 
of the stars of heaven with the radiations which a duck's foot 
leaves in the mud. 



WE need not examine the Bishop of D from an orthodox 

point of view. Before such a soul, we feel only in the humour 
of respect. The conscience of an upright man should be taken 
for granted. Moreover, given certain natures, and we admit 
the possible development of all the beauties of human virtues 
in a faith different from our own. 

What he thought of this dogma or that mystery, are secrets of 
the interior faith known only in the tomb where souls enter 
stripped of all externals. But we are sure that religious diffi- 
culties never resulted with him in hypocrisy. No corruption is 
possible with the diamond. He believed as much as he could. 
Credo in Pair em, he often exclaimed; and, besides, he derived 
from his good deeds that measure of satisfaction which meets 
the demands of conscience, and which says in a low voice, " thou 
art with God." 

We think it our duty to notice that, outside of and, so to say, 
beyond his faith, the bishop had an excess of love. It is on 
that account, quia multum amavit, that he was deemed vulner- 
able by " serious men," " sober persons," and " reasonable 
people ; " favourite phrases in our sad world, where egotism 
receives its key-note from pedantry. What was this excess 
of love ? It was a serene benevolence, overflowing men, as we 
have already indicated, and, on occasion, extending to inanimate 
things. He lived without disdain. He was indulgent to God's 
creation. Every man, even the best, has some inconsiderate 
severity which he holds in reserve for animals. The Bishop of 

D had none of this severity peculiar to most priests. He 

did not go as far as the Brahmin, but he appeared to have 
pondered over these words of Ecclesiastes : " who knows whither 
goeth the spirit of the beast ? " Ugliness of aspect, monstrosi- 
ties of instinct, did not trouble or irritate him. He was moved 

Fantine 53 

and afflicted by it. He seemed to be thoughtfully seeking, 
beyond the apparent life, for its cause, its explanation, or its 
excuse. He seemed at times to ask changes of God. He 
examined without passion, and with the eye of a linguist 
decyphering a palimpsest, the portion of chaos which there is 
yet in nature. These reveries sometimes drew from him strange 
words. One morning, he was in his garden, and thought him- 
self alone; but his sister was walking behind him; all at once 
he stopped and looked at something on the ground: it was a 
large, black, hairy, horrible spider. His sister heard him say : 

" Poor thing ! it is not his fault." 

Why not relate this almost divine childlikeness of goodness ? 
Puerilities, perhaps, but these sublime puerilities were those of 
St. Francis of Assisi and of Marcus Aurelius. One day he 
received a sprain rather than crush an ant. 

So lived this upright man. Sometimes he went to sleep in 
his garden, and then there was nothing more venerable. 

Monseigneur Bienvenu had been formerly, according to 
the accounts of his youth and even of his early manhood, a 
passionate, perhaps a violent, man. His universal tender- 
ness was less an instinct of nature than the result of a strong 
conviction filtered through life into his heart, slowly dropping 
in upon him, thought by thought; for a character, as well as a 
rock, may be worn into by drops of water. Such marks are 
ineffaceable; such formations are indestructible. 

In 1815, we think we have already said, he attained his 
seventy -sixth year, but he did not appear to be more than sixty. 
He was not tall ; he was somewhat fleshy, and frequently took 
long walks that he might not become more so; he had a firm 
step, and was but little bowed ; a circumstance from which we 
do not claim to draw any conclusion. Gregory XVI., at eighty 
years, was erect and smiling, which did not prevent him from 
being a bad bishop. Monseigneur Bienvenu had what people 
call " a fine head," but so benevolent that you forgot that it 
was fine. 

When he talked with that infantile gaiety that was one of 
his graces, and of which we have already spoken, all felt at ease 
in his presence, and from his whole person joy seemed to radiate. 
His ruddy and fresh complexion, and his white teeth, all of which 
were well preserved, and which he showed when he laughed, gave 
him that open and easy air which makes us say of a man : he is 
a good fellow; and of an old man : he is a good man. This was, 
we remember, the effect he produced on Napoleon. At the first 

54 Les Miserables 

view, and to one who saw him for the first time, he was nothing 
more than a good man. But if one spent a few hours with him, 
and saw him in a thoughtful mood, little by little the goodman 
became transfigured, and became ineffably imposing; his large 
and serious forehead, rendered noble by his white hair, became 
noble also by meditation; majesty was developed from this 
goodness, yet the radiance of goodness remained; and one felt 
something of the emotion that he would experience in seeing a 
smiling angel slowly spread his wings without ceasing to smile. 
Respect, unutterable respect, penetrated you by degrees, and 
made its way to your heart; and you felt that you had before 
you one of those strong, tried, and indulgent souls, where the 
thought is so great that it cannot be other than gentle. 

As we have seen, prayer, celebration of the religious offices, 
alms, consoling the afflicted, the cultivation of a little piece of 
ground, fraternity, frugality, self-sacrifice, confidence, study, 
and work, filled up each day of his life. Filled up is exactly the 
word; and in fact, the Bishop's day was full to the brim with 
good thoughts, good words, and good actions. Nevertheless it 
was not complete if cold or rainy weather prevented his passing 
an hour or two in the evening, when the two women had retired, 
in his garden before going to sleep. It seemed as if it were a 
sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for sleep by meditating 
in presence of the great spectacle of the starry firmament. 
Sometimes at a late hour of the night, if the two women were 
awake, they would hear him slowly promenading the walks. 
He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring, 
comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the 
skies, moved in the darkness by the visible splendours of the 
constellations, and the invisible splendour of God, opening his 
soul to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown. In such 
moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of 
night inhale their perfume, lighted like a lamp in the centre of 
the starry night, expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the 
universal radiance of creation, he could not himself perhaps 
have told what was passing in his own mind; he felt something 
depart from him, and something descend upon him ; mysterious 
interchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the 

He contemplated the grandeur, and the presence of God ; the 
eternity of the future, strange mystery; the eternity of the 
past, mystery yet more strange; all the infinities deep-hidden 
in every direction about him; and, without essaying to com- 

Fantine 55 

prehend the incomprehensible, he saw it. He did not study 
God; he was dazzled by the thought. He reflected upon these 
magnificent unions of atoms which give visible forms to Nature, 
revealing forces in establishing them, creating individualities in 
unity, proportions in extension, the innumerable in the infinite, 
and through light producing beauty. These unions are forming 
and dissolving continually; thence life and death. 

He would sit upon a wooden bench leaning against a broken 
trellis, and look at the stars through the irregular outlines of his 
fruit trees. This quarter of an acre of ground, so poorly culti- 
vated, so cumbered with shed and ruins, was dear to him, and 
satisfied him. 

What was more needed by this old man who divided the 
leisure hours of his life, where he had so little leisure, between 
gardening in the day time, and contemplation at night? Was 
not this narrow inclosure, with the sky for a background, 
enough to enable him to adore God in his most beautiful as well 
as in his most sublime works ? Indeed, is not that all, and what 
more can be desired ? A little garden to walk, and immensity to 
reflect upon. At his feet something to cultivate and gather; 
above his head something to study and meditate upon; a few 
flowers on the earth, and all the stars in the sky. 



A FINAL word. 

As these details may, particularly in the times in which we 
live, and to use an expression now in fashion, give the Bishop 

of D a certain " pantheistic " physiognomy, and give rise 

to the belief, whether to his blame or to his praise, that he had 
one of those personal philosophies peculiar to our age, which 
sometimes spring up in solitary minds, and gather materials 
and grow until they replace religion, we insist upon it that no 
one who knew Monseigneur Bienvenu would have felt justified 
in any such idea. What enlightened this man was the heart. 
His wisdom was formed from the light that came thence. 

He had no systems; but many deeds. Abstruse specula- 
tions are full of headaches; nothing indicates that he would 
risk his mind in mysticisms. The apostle may be bold, but the 
bishop should be timid. He would probably have scrupled to 

^6 Les Miserables 

sound too deeply certain problems, reserved in some sort for 
great and terrible minds. There is a sacred horror in the 
approaches to mysticism; sombre openings are yawning there, 
but something tells you, as you near the brink enter not. 
Woe to him who does! 

There are geniuses who, in the fathomless depths of abstrac- 
tion and pure speculation situated, so to say, above all dogmas, 
present their ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers 
a discussion. Their worship is questioning. This is direct 
religion, full of anxiety and of responsibility for him who would 
scale its walls. 

Human thought has no limit. At its risk and peril, it analyses 
and dissects its own fascination. We could almost say that, by 
a sort of splendid reaction, it fascinates nature ; the mysterious 
world which surrounds us returns what it receives ; it is probable 
that the contemplators are contemplated. However that may 
be, there %re men on the earth if they are nothing more who 
distinctly perceive the heights of the absolute in the horizon of 
their contemplation, and who have the terrible vision of the 
infinite mountain. Monseigneur Bienvenu was not one of those 
men ; Monseigneur Bienvenu was not a genius. He would have 
dreaded those sublimities from which some very great men even, 
like Swedenborg and Pascal, have glided into insanity. Cer- 
tainly, these tremendous reveries have their moral use ; and by 
these arduous routes there is an approach to ideal perfection. 
But for his part, he took the straight road, which is short the 

He did not attempt to make his robe assume the folds of 
Elijah's mantle; he cast no ray of the future upon the dark 
scroll of events; he sought not to condense into a flame the 
glimmer of things; he had nothing of the prophet and nothing 
of the magician. His humble soul loved; that was all. 

That he raised his prayer to a superhuman aspiration, is 
probable; but one can no more pray too much than love too 
much; and, if it was a heresy to pray beyond the written form, 
St. Theresa and St. Jerome were heretics. 

He inclined towards the distressed and the repentant. The 
universe appeared to him like a vast disease; he perceived 
fever everywhere, he auscultated suffering everywhere, and, 
without essaying to solve the enigma, he endeavoured to staunch 
the wound. The formidable spectacle of created things de- 
veloped a tenderness in him ; he was always busy in finding for 
himself, and inspiring others with the best way of sympathising 

Fantine 57 

and solacing; the whole world was to this good and rare priest 
a permanent subject of sadness seeking to be consoled. 

There are men who labour for the extraction of gold; he 
worked for the extraction of pity. The misery of the universe 
was his mine. Grief everywhere was only an occasion for good 
always. Love one another ; he declared that to be complete; 
he desired nothing more, and it was his whole doctrine. One 
day, this man, who counted himself " a philosopher," this 
senator before mentioned, said to the bishop : ' ' See now, what 
the world shows ; each fighting against all others; the strongest 
man is the best man. Your love one another is a stupidity." 
" Well" replied Monseigneur Bienvenu, without discussion, " if 
it be a stupidity, the soul ought to shut itself up in it, like the pearl 
in the oyster." And he shut himself up in it, he lived in it, he 
was satisfied absolutely with it, laying aside the mysterious 
questions which attract and which dishearten, the unfathom- 
able depths of abstraction, the precipices of metaphysics all 
those profundities, to the apostle converging upon God, to the 
atheist upon annihilation; destiny, good and evil, the war of 
being against being, the conscience of man, the thought-like 
dreams of the animal, the transformation of death, the recapitu- 
lation of existences contained in the tomb, the incomprehensible 
engrafting of successive affections upon the enduring me, the 
essence, the substance, the Nothing, and the Something, the 
soul, nature, liberty, necessity; difficult problems, sinister 
depths, towards which are drawn the gigantic archangels of the 
human race; fearful abyss, that Lucretius, Manou, St. Paul, 
and Dante contemplate with that flaming eye which seems, 
looking steadfastly into the infinite, to enkindle the very stars. 

Monsieur Bienvenu was simply a man who accepted these 
mysterious questions without examining them, without agi- 
tating them, and without troubling his own mind with them; 
and who had in his soul a deep respect for the mystery which 
enveloped them. 




AN hour before sunset, on the evening of a day in the beginning 
of October, 1815, a man travelling afoot entered the little town 

of D . The few persons who at this time were at their 

windows or their doors, regarded this traveller with a sort of 
distrust. It would have been hard to find a passer-by more 
wretched in appearance. He was a man of middle height, stout 
and hardy, in the strength of maturity; he might have been 
forty-six or seven. A slouched leather cap half hid his face, 
bronzed by the sun and wind, and dripping with sweat. His 
shaggy breast was seen through the coarse yellow shirt which at 
the neck was fastened by a small silver anchor ; he wore a cravat 
twisted like a rope; coarse blue trousers, worn and shabby, 
white on one knee, and with holes in the other; an old ragged 
grey blouse, patched on one side with a piece of green cloth 
sewed with twine: upon his back was a well-filled knapsack, 
strongly buckled and quite new. In his hand he carried an 
enormous knotted stick : his stockingless feet were in hobnailed 
shoes; his hair was cropped and his beard long. 

The sweat, the heat, his long walk, and the dust, added an 
indescribable meanness to his tattered appearance. 

His hair was shorn, but bristly, for it had begun to grow a 
little, and seemingly had not been cut for some time. Nobody 
knew him ; he was evidently a traveller. Whence had he come ? 
From the south perhaps from the sea; for he was making his 

entrance into D by the same road by which, seven months 

before, the Emperor Napoleon went from Cannes to Paris. This 
man must have walked all day long; for he appeared very weary. 
Some women of the old city which is at the lower part of the 
town, had seen him stop under the trees of the boulevard 
Gassendi, and drink at the fountain which is at the end of the 
promenade. He must have been very thirsty, for some children 
who followed him, saw him stop not two hundred steps further 
on and drink again at the fountain in the market-place. 


Fantine 59 

When he reached the corner of the Rue Poichevert he turned 
to the left and went towards the mayor's office. He went in, 
and a quarter of an hour afterwards he came out. 

The man raised his cap humbly and saluted a gendarme who 
was seated near the door, upon the stone bench which General 
Drouot mounted on the fourth of March, to read to the terrified 
inhabitants of D the proclamation of the Golje Juan. 

Without returning his salutation, the gendarme looked at 
him attentively, watched him for some distance, and then went 
into the city hall. 

There was then in D , a good inn called La Croix de Colbas; 

its host was named Jacquin Labarre, a man held in some con- 
sideration in the town on account of his relationship with 
another Labarre, who kept an inn at Grenoble called Trois 
Dauphins, and who had served in the Guides. At the time of 
the landing of the emperor there had been much noise in the 
country about this inn of the Trois Dauphins. It was said that 
General Bertrand, disguised as a wagoner, had made frequent 
journeys thither in the month of January, and that he had dis- 
tributed crosses of honour to the soldiers, and handfuls of 
Napoleons to the country-folks. The truth is, that the emperor 
when he entered Grenoble, refused to take up his quarters at 
the prefecture, saying to the monsieur, after thanking him, " 1 
am going to the house of a brave man, with whom I am acquainted," 
and he went to the Trois Dauphins. This glory of Labarre of the 
Trois Dauphins was reflected twenty-five miles to Labarre of 
the Croix de Colbas. It was a comon saying in the town: " He 
is the cousin of the Grenoble man I " 

The traveller turned his steps towards this inn, which was the 
best in the place, and went at once into the kitchen, which 
opened out of the street. All the ranges were fuming, and a 
great fire was burning briskly in the chimney-place. Mine host,, 
who was at the same time head cook, was going from the fire- 
place to the sauce-pans, very busy superintending an excellent 
dinner for some wagoners who were laughing and talking noisily 
in the next room. Whoever has travelled knows that nobody 
lives better than wagoners. A fat marmot, flanked by white 
partridges and goose, was turning on a long spit before the fire; 
upon the ranges were cooking two large carps from Lake Lauzet, 
and a trout from Lake Alloz. 

The host, hearing the door open, and a new-comer enter, said,, 
without raising his eyes from his ranges 

" What will monsieur have? " 

60 Les Miserablcs 

" Something to eat and lodging." 

" Nothing more easy/' said mine host, but on turning his 
head and taking an observation of the traveller,, he added, " for 


The man drew from his pocket a large leather purse, and 

" I have money." 

" Then," said mine host, " I am at your service." 

The man put his purse back into his pocket, took off his knap- 
sack and put it down hard by the door, and holding his stick in 
his hand, sat down on a low stool by the fire. D being in 
the mountains, the evenings of October are cold there. 

However, as the host passed backwards and forwards, he kept 
a careful eye on the traveller. 

" Is dinner almost ready? " said the man. 

" Directly," said mine host. 

While the new-comer was wa,rming himself with his back 
turned, the worthy innkeeper, Jacquin Labarre, took a pencil 
from his pocket, and then tore off the corner of an old paper 
which he pulled from a little table near the window. On the 
margin he wrote a line or two, folded it, and handed the scrap 
of paper to a child, who appeared to serve him as lacquey and 
scullion at the same time. The innkeeper whispered a word to 
the boy, and he ran off in the direction of the mayor's office. 

The traveller saw nothing of this. 

He asked a second time: " Is dinner ready? " 

41 Yes; in a few moments," said the host. 

The boy came back with the paper. The host unfolded it 
hurriedly, as one who is expecting an answer. He seemed to 
read with attention, then throwing his head on one side, thought 
for a moment. Then he took a step towards the traveller, who 
seemed drowned in troublous thought. 

" Monsieur," said he, " I cannot receive you." 

The traveller half rose from his seat. 

" Why? Are you afraid I shall not pay you, or do you want 
me to pay in advance ? I have money, I tell you." 

" It is not that." 

"What then?" 

" You have money " 

" Yes," said the man. 

" And I," said the host; " I have no room." 

" Well, put me in the stable," quietly replied the man. 

I cannot." 

Fantine 6 1 

" Why? " 

" Because the horses take all the room." 

" Well," responded the man, " a corner in the garret; a truss 
of straw: we will see about that after dinner." 

" I cannot give you any dinner." 

This declaration, made in a measured but firm tone, appeared 
serious to the traveller. He got up. 

"Ah, bah! but I am dying with hunger. I have walked 
since sunrise; I have travelled twelve leagues. I will pay, and 
I want something to eat." 

" I have nothing," said the host. 

The man burst into a laugh, and turned towards the fire-place 
and the ranges. 

"Nothing! and all that?" 

" All that is engaged." 

"By whom?" 

" By those persons, the wagoners. 

" How many are there of them? " 

" Twelve." 

" There is enough there for twenty." 

" They have engaged and paid for it all in advance." 

The man sat down again and said, without raising his voice: 
" I am at an inn. I am hungry, and I shall stay." 

The host bent down to his ear, and said in a voice which made 
him tremble: 

"Go away!" 

At these words the traveller, who was bent over, poking some 
embers in the fire with the iron-shod end of his stick, turned 
suddenly around, and opened his mouth, as if to reply, when the 
host, looking steadily at him, added in the same low tone: 
" Stop, no more of that. Shall I tell you your name? your 
name is Jean Valjean, now shall I tell you who you are ? When 
I saw you enter, I suspected something. I sent to the mayor's 
office, and here is the reply. Can you read ? " So saying, he 
held towards him the open paper, which had just come from 
the mayor. The man cast a look upon it; the innkeeper, 
after a short silence, said: " It is my custom to be polite to 
all: Go!" 

The man bowed his head, picked up his knapsack, and went 

He took the principal street; he walked at random, slinking 
near the houses like a sad and humiliated man : he did not once 
turn around. If he had turned, he would have seen the inn- 

62 Les Miserables 

keeper of the Croix de Colbas, standing in his doorway with all 
his guests, and the passers-by gathered about him, speaking 
excitedly, and pointing him out ; and from the looks of fear and 
distrust which were exchanged, he would have guessed that 
before long his arrival would be the talk of the whole town. 

He saw nothing of all this : people overwhelmed with trouble 
do not look behind; they know only too well that misfortune 
follows them. 

He walked along in this way some time, going by chance down 
streets unknown to him, and forgetting fatigue, as is the case 
in sorrow. Suddenly he felt a pang of hunger; night was at 
hand, and he looked around to see if he could not discover a 

The good inn was closed against him : he sought some humble 
tavern, some poor cellar. 

Just then a light shone at the end of the street ; he saw a pine 
branch, hanging by an iron bracket, against the white sky of the 
twilight. He went thither. 

It was a tavern in the Rue Chaffaut. 

The traveller stopped a moment and looked in at the little 
window upon the low hall of the tavern, lighted by a small lamp 
upon a table, and a great fire in the chimney-place. Some men 
were drinking, and the host was warming himself; an iron-pot 
hung over the fire seething in the blaze. 

Two doors lead into this tavern, which is also a sort of eatihg- 
house one from the street, the other from a small court full of 

The traveller did not dare to enter by the street door; he 
slipped into the court, stopped again, then timidly raised the 
latch, and pushed open the door. 

" Who is it? " said the host. 

" One who wants supper and a bed." 

" All right: here you can sup and sleep." 

He went in, all the men who were drinking turned towards 
him; the lamp shining on one side of this face, the firelight on 
the other, they examined him for some time as he was taking off 
his knapsack. 

The host said to him: "There is the fire; the supper is 
cooking in the pot; come and warm yourself, comrade." 

He seated himself near the fireplace and stretched his feet out 
towards the fire, half dead with fatigue : an inviting odour came 
from the pot. All that could be seen of his face under his 
slouched cap assumed a vague appearance of comfort, which 

Famine 63 

tempered the sorrowful aspect given him by long-continued 

His profile was strong, energetic, and sad; a physiognomy 
strangely marked: at first it appeared humble, but it soon 
became severe. His eye shone beneath his eyebrows like a fire 
beneath a thicket. 

However, one of the men at the table was a fisherman who 
had put up his horse at the stable of Labarre's inn before enter- 
ing the tavern of the Rue de Chaffaut. It so happened that he 
had met, that same morning, this suspicious-looking stranger 
travelling between Bras d'Asse and I forget the place, I think 
it is Escoublon. Now, on meeting him, the man, who seemed 
already very much fatigued, had asked him to take him on 
behind, to which the fisherman responded only by doubling his 
pace. The fisherman, half an hour before, had been one of the 
throng about Jacquin Labarre, and had himself related his un- 
pleasant meeting with him to the people of the Croix de Colbas. 
He beckoned to the tavern-keeper to come to him, which he did. 
They exchanged a few words in a low voice; the traveller had 
again relapsed into thought. 

The tavern-keeper returned to the fire, and laying his hand 
roughly on his shoulder, said harshly: 

" You are going to clear out from here ! " 

The stranger turned round and said mildly, 
' Ah! Do you know? " 
' Yes." 

' They sent me away from the other inn." 
' And we turn you out of this." 
' Where would you have me go? " 
' Somewhere else." 

The man took up his stick and knapsack, and went off. As 
he went out, some children who had followed him from the 
Croix de Colbas, and seemed to be waiting for him, threw stones 
at him. He turned angrily and threatened them with his stick, 
and they scattered like a flock of birds. 

He passed the prison: an iron chain hung from the door 
attached to a bell. He rang. 

The grating opened. 

" Monsieur Turnkey," said he, taking off his cap respectfully, 
" will you open and let me stay here to-night? " 

A voice answered : 

" A prison is not a tavern: get yourself arrested and we will 

64 Lcs Miserables 

The grating closed. 

He went into a small street where there are many gardens; 
some of them are enclosed only by hedges, which enliven the 
street. Among them he saw a pretty little one-story house, 
where there was a light in the window. He looked in as he had 
done at the tavern. It was a large whitewashed room, with 
a bed draped with calico, and a cradle in the corner, some 
wooden chairs, and a double-barrelled gun hung against the 
wall. A table was set in the centre of the room; a brass lamp 
lighted the coarse white table-cloth; a tin mug full of wine 
shone like silver, and the brown soup-dish was smoking. At 
this table sat a man about forty years old, with a joyous, open 
countenance, who was trotting a little child upon his knee. 
Near by him a young woman was suckling another child; the 
father was laughing, the child was laughing, and the mother 
was smiling. 

The traveller remained a moment contemplating this sweet 
and touching scene. What were his thoughts? He only could 
have told: probably he thought that this happy home would 
be hospitable, and that where he beheld so much happiness, he 
might perhaps find a little pity. 

He rapped faintly on the window. 

No one heard him. 

He rapped a second time. 

He heard the woman say, " Husband, I think I hear some 
one rap." 

" No," replied the husband. 

He rapped a third time. The husband got up, took the lamp, 
and opened the door. 

He was a tall man, half peasant, half mechanic. He wore a 
large leather apron that reached to his left shoulder, and formed 
a pocket containing a hammer, a red handkerchief, a powder- 
horn, and all sorts of things which the girdle held up. He 
turned his head; his shirt, wide and open, showed his bull-like 
throat, white and naked; he had thick brows, enormous black 
whiskers, and prominent eyes; the lower part of the face was 
covered, and had withal that air of being at home which is 
quite indescribable. 

" Monsieur," said the traveller, " I beg your pardon; for pay 
can you give me a plate of soup and a corner of the shed in your 
garden to sleep in ? Tell me ; can you, for pay ? " 

" Who are you? " demanded the master of the house. 

The man replied : "I have come from Puy-Moisson ; I have 

Famine 65 

walked all day; I have come twelve leagues. Can you, if I 

" I wouldn't refuse to lodge any proper person who would 
pay," said the peasant; " but why do you not go to the inn? " 

" There is no room." 

" Bah ! That is not possible. It is neither a fair nor a 
market-day. Have you been to Labarre's house? " 

" Yes." 


The traveller replied hesitatingly : " I don't know; he didn't 
take me." 

" Have you been to that place in the Rue Chaifaut? " 

The embarrassment of the stranger increased ; he stammered : 
" They didn't take me either." 

The peasant's face assumed an expression of distrust: he 
looked over the new-comer from head to foot, and suddenly 
exclaimed, with a sort of shudder: " Are you the man ! " 

He looked again at the stranger, stepped back, put the lamp 
on the table, and took down his gun. 

His wife, on hearing the words, " are you the man" started 
up, and, clasping her two children, precipitately took refuge 
behind her husband; she looked at the stranger with affright. 
her neck bare, her eyes dilated, murmuring in a low tone: " Tso 
maraude J" l 

All this happened in less time than it takes to read it; after 
examining the man for a moment, as one would a viper, the man 
advanced to the door and said : 

"Get out!" 

" For pity's sake, a glass of water," said the man. 

" A gun shot," said the peasant, and then he closed the door 
violently, and the man heard two heavy bolts drawn. A moment 
afterwards the window-shutters were shut, and noisily barred. 

Night came on apace; the cold Alpine winds were blowing; 
by the light of the expiring day the stranger perceived in one 
of the gardens which fronted the street a kind of hut which 
seemed to be made of turf; he boldly cleared a wooden fence 
and found himself in the garden. He neared the hut; its door 
was a narrow, low entrance; it resembled, in its construction, 
the shanties which the road-labourers put up for their temporary 
accommodation. He, doubtless, thought that it was, in fact, 
the lodging of a road-labourer. He was suffering both from 
cold and hunger. He had resigned himself to the latter; but 
1 Patois of the French Alps, " Chut d* maraude." 

66 Les Missrables 

there at least was a shelter from the cold. These huts are not 
usually occupied at night. He got down and crawled into the 
hut. It was warm there, and he found a good bed of straw. 
He rested a moment upon this bed motionless from fatigue; 
then, as his knapsack on his back troubled him, and it would 
make a good pillow, he began to unbuckle the straps. Just 
then he heard a ferocious growling, and looking up saw the head 
of an enormous bull-dog at the opening of the hut. 

It was a dog-kennel ! 

He was himself vigorous and formidable; seizing his stick, 
he made a shield of his knapsack, and got out of the hut as best 
he could, but not without enlarging the rents of his already 
tattered garments. 

He made his way also out of the garden, but backwards; 
being obliged, out of respect to the dog, to have recourse to that 
kind of manoeuvre with his stick, which adepts in this sort of 
fencing call la rose couverte. 

When he had, not without difficulty, got over the fence, he 
again found himself alone in the street without lodging, roof, 
or shelter, driven even from the straw-bed of that wretched 
dog-kennel. He threw himself rather than seated himself on a 
stone, and it appears that some one who was passing heard him 
exclaim, " I am not even a dog 1 " 

Then he arose, and began to tramp again, taking his way out 
of the town, hoping to find some tree or haystack beneath which 
he could shelter himself. He walked on for some time, his head 
bowed down. When he thought he was far away from all human 
habitation he raised his eyes, and looked about him inquiringly. 
He was in a field: before him was a low hillock covered with 
stubble, which after the harvest looks like a shaved head. The 
sky was very dark; it was not simply the darkness of night, but 
there were very low clouds, which seemed to rest upon the hills, 
and covered the whole heavens. A little of the twilight, how- 
ever, lingered in the zenith; and as the moon was about to rise 
these clouds formed in mid-heaven a vault of whitish light, from 
which a glimmer fell upon the earth. 

The earth was then lighter than the sky, which produces a 
peculiarly sinister effect, and the hill, poor and mean in contour, 
loomed out dim and pale upon the gloomy horizon: the whole 
prospect was hideous, mean, lugubrious, and insignificant. 
There was nothing in the field nor upon the hill, but one ugly 
tree, a few steps from the traveller, which seemed to be twisting 
and contorting itself. 

Fantine 67 

This man was evidently far from possessing those delicate 
perceptions of intelligence and feeling which produce a sensitive- 
ness to the mysterious aspects of nature; still, there was in the 
sky, in this hiiiock, plain, and tree, something so profoundly 
desolate, that after a moment of motionless contemplation, he 
turned back hastily to the road. There are moments when 
nature appears hostile. 

He retraced his steps ; the gates of D were closed. D , 

which sustained sieges in the religious wars, was still surrounded, 
in 1815, by old walls flanked by square towers, since demolished, 
lie passed through a breach and entered the town. 

It was about eight o'clock in the evening: as he did not know 
the streets, he walked at hazard. 

So he came to the prefecture, then to the seminary; on pass- 
ing by the Cathedral square, he shook his fist at the church. 

At the corner of this square stands a printing-office; there 
were first printed the proclamations of the emperor, and the 
Imperial Guard to the army, brought from the island of Elba, 
and dictated by Napoleon himself. 

Exhausted with fatigue, and hoping for nothing better, he 
lay down on a stone bench in front of this printing-office. 

Just then an old woman came out of the church. She saw 
the man lying there in the dark, and said : 

" What are you doing there, my friend? " 

He replied harshly, and with anger in his tone: 

" You see, my good woman, I am going to sleep." 

The good woman, who really merited the name, was Madame 
la Marquise de R . 

" Upon the bench? " said she. 

" For nineteen years I have had a wooden mattress," said the 
man; " to-night I have a stone one." 

" You have been a soldier? " 

" Yes, my good woman, a soldier." 

" Why don't you go to the inn? " 

" Because I have no money." 

" Alas! " said Madame de R , " I have only four sous ii; 

my purse." 

" Give them then." The man took the four sous, and 
Madame de R continued: 

" You cannot find lodging for so little in an inn. But have 
you tried? You cannot pass the night so. You must be cold 
and hungry. They should give you lodging for charity." 

" Lhave knocked at every door." 

68 Les Miserables 

"Well, what then?" 
" Everybody has driven me away." 

The good woman touched the man's arm and pointed out to 
him, on the other side of the square, a little low house beside 
the bishop's palace. 

' You have knocked at every door? " she asked, 

' Yes." 

' Have you knocked at that one there ? " 

' No." 

' Knock there." 



THAT evening, after his walk in the town, the Bishop of D 

remained quite late in his room. He was busy with his great 
work on Duty, which unfortunately is left incomplete. He 
carefully dissected all that the Fathers and Doctors have said 
on this serious topic. His book was divided into two parts: 
First, the duties of all : Secondly, the duties of each, according 
to his position in life. The duties of all are the principal duties; 
there are four of them, as set forth by St. Matthew: duty 
towards God (Matt, vi.); duty towards ourselves (Matt. v. 29, 
30); duty towards our neighbour (Matt. vii. 12); and duty 
towards animals (Matt. vi. 20, 25). As to other duties the 
bishop found them defined and prescribed elsewhere; those of 
sovereigns and subjects in the Epistle to the Romans : those of 
magistrates, wives, mothers, and young men, by St. Peter; 
those of husbands, fathers, children, and servants, in the 
Epistle to the Ephesians; those of the faithful in the Epistle 
to the Hebrews; and those of virgins in the Epistle to the 
Corinthians. He collated with much labour these injunctions 
into a harmonious whole, which he wished to offer to souls. 

At eight o'clock he was still at work, writing with some incon- 
venience on little slips of paper, with a large book open on his 
knees, when Madame Magloire, as usual, came in to take the 
silver from the panel near the bed. A moment after, the bishop, 
knowing that the table was laid, and that his sister was perhaps 
waiting, closed his book and went into the dining room. 

This dining-room was an oblong apartment, with a fireplace, 
and with a door upon the street, as we have said, and a window 
opening into the garden. 

Madame Magloire had just finished placing the plates. 

Fantine 69 

While she was arranging the table, she was talking with 
Mademoiselle Baptistine. 

The lamp was on the table, which was near the fireplace, 
where a good fire was burning. 

One can readily fancy these two women, both past their 
sixtieth year: Madame Magloire, small, fat, and quick in her 
movements; Mademoiselle Baptistine, sweet, thin, fragile, a 
little taller than her brother, wore a silk puce colour dress, in the 
style of 1806, which she had bought at that time in Paris, and 
which still lasted her. To borrow a common mode of expres- 
sion, which has the merit of saying in a single word what a page 
would hardly express, Madame Magloire had the air of a peasant, 
and Mademoiselle Baptistine that of a lady. Madame Magloire 
wore a white funnel-shaped cap: a gold jeannette at her neck, 
the only bit of feminine jewellery in the house, a snowy fichu 
just peering out above a black frieze dress, with wide short 
sleeves, a green and red checked calico apron tied at the waist 
with a green ribbon, with a stomacher of the same pinned up 
in front; on her feet, she wore coarse shoes and yellow stock- 
ings like the women of Marseilles. Mademoiselle Baptistine's 
dress was cut after the fashion of 1806, short waist, narrow 
skirt, sleeves with epaulettes, and with flaps and buttons. 
Her grey hair was hid under a frizzed front called a I'enfant. 
Madame Magloire had an intelligent, clever, and lively air; the 
two corners of her mouth unequally raised, and the upper lip 
projecting beyond the under one, gave something morose and' 
imperious to her expression. So long as monseigneur was 
silent, she talked to him without reserve, and with a mingled 
respect and freedom; but from the time that he opened his 
mouth as we have seen, she implicitly obeyed like mademoiselle. 
Mademoiselle Baptistine, however, did not speak. She confined- 
herself to obeying, and endeavouring to please. Even when* 
she was young, she was not pretty; she had large and very 
prominent blue eyes, and a long pinched nose, but her whole 
face and person, as we said in the outset, breathed an ineffable 
goodness. She had been fore-ordained to meekness, but faith, 
charity, hope, these three virtues which gently warm the heart, 
had gradually sublimated this meekness into sanctity. Nature 
had made her a lamb; religion had made her an angel. Poor, 
sainted woman ! gentle, but lost souvenir. 

Mademoiselle Baptistine has so often related what occurred 
at the bishop's house that evening, that many persons are still 
living who can recall the minutest details. 

70 Les Miserables 

Just as the bishop entered, Madame Magloire was speaking 
with some warmth. She was talking to Mademoiselle, upon a 
familiar subject, and one to which the bishop was quite accus- 
tomed. It was a discussion on the means of fastening the front 

It seems that while Madame Magloire was out making pro- 
vision for supper, she had heard the news in sundry places. 
There was talk that an ill-favoured runaway, a suspicious 
vagabond, had arrived and was lurking somewhere in the town, 
and that some unpleasant adventures might befall those who 
should come home late that night; besides, that the police was 
very bad, as the prefect and the mayor did not like one another, 
and were hoping to injure each other by untoward events; that 
it was the part of wise people to be their own police, and to 
protect their own persons; and that every one ought to be 
careful to shut up, bolt, and bar his house properly, and secure 
his door thoroughly. 

Madame Magloire dwelt upon these last words; but the 
bishop, having come from a cold room, seated himself before the 
fire and began to warm himself, and then, he was thinking of 
something else. He did not hear a word of what was let fall by 
Madame Magloire, and she repeated it. Then Mademoiselle 
Baptistine, endeavouring to satisfy Madame Magloire without 
displeasing her brother, ventured to say timidly: 

" Brother, do you hear what Madame Magloire says? " 

" I heard something of it indistinctly," said the bishop. 
Then turning his chair half round, putting his hands on his 
knees, and raising towards the old servant his cordial and good- 
humoured face, which the firelight shone upon, he said: " Well, 
well! what is the matter? Are we in any great danger? " 

Then Madame Magloire began her story again, unconsciously 
exaggerating it a little. It appeared that a bare-footed gipsy 
man, a sort of dangerous beggar, was in the town. He had 
gone for lodging to Jacquin Labarre, who had refused to receive 
him; he had been seen to enter the town by the boulevard 
Gassendi, and to roam through the street at dusk. A man with 
a knapsack and a rope, and a terrible-looking face. 

" Indeed! " said the bishop. 

This readiness to question her encouraged Madame Magloire; 
it seemed to indicate that the bishop was really well-nigh 
alarmed. She continued triumphantly: "Yes, monseigneur; 
it is true. There will something happen to-night in the town: 
everybody says so. The police is so badly organised (a con- 

Famine 7 1 

venient repetition). To live in this mountainous country, and 
not even to have street lamps ! If one goes out, it is dark as a 
pocket. And I say, monseigneur, and mademoiselle says also " 

" Me? " interrupted the sister; " I say nothing. Whatever 
my brother does is well done." 

Madame Magloire went on as if she had not heard this pro- 
testation : 

"We say that this house is not safe at all; and if mon- 
seigneur will permit me, I will go and tell Paulin Musebois, the 
locksmith, to come and put the old bolts in the door again; 
they are there, and it will take but a minute. I say we must 
have bolts, were it only for to-night; for I say that a door 
which opens by a latch on the outside to the first comer, nothing 
could be more horrible: and then monseigneur has the habit 
of always saying ' Come in/ even at midnight. But, my good- 
ness ! there is no need even to ask leave " 

At this moment there was a violent knock on the door. 

" Come in ! " said the bishop. 



THE door opened. 

It opened quickly, quite wide, as if pushed by some one boldly 
and with energy. 

A man entered. 

That man, we know already; it was the traveller we have 
seen wandering about in search of a lodging. 

He came in, took one step, and paused, leaving the door open 
behind him. He had his knapsack on his back, his stick in his 
hand, and a rough, hard, tired, and fierce look in his eyes, as seen 
by the firelight. He was hideous. It was an apparition of ill 

Madame Magloire had not even the strength to scream. She 
stood trembling with her mouth open. 

Mademoiselle Baptistine turned, saw the man enter, and 
started up half alarmed; then, slowly turning back again 
towards the fire, she looked at her brother, and her face resumed 
its usual calmness and serenity. 

The bishop looked upon the man with a tranquil eye. 

As he was opening his mouth to speak, doubtless to ask the 
stranger what he wanted, the man, leaning with both hands on 

72 Les Miserables 

his club, glanced from one to another in turn, and without 
waiting for the bishop to speak, said in a loud voice: 

" See here! My name is Jean Valjean. I am a convict; I 
have been nineteen years in the galleys. Four days ago I was 
set free, and started for Pontarlier, which is my destination; 
during those four days I have walked from Toulon. To-day I 
have walked twelve leagues. When I reached this place this 
evening I went to an inn, and they sent me away on account of 
my yellow passport, which I had shown at the mayor's office, as 
was necessary. I went to another inn; they said: ' Get out! ' 
It was the same with one as with another; nobody would have 
me. I went to the prison, and the turnkey would not let me in. 
I crept into a dog-kennel, the dog bit me, and drove me away as 
if he had been a man; you would have said that he knew who 
I was. I went into the fields to sleep beneath the stars: there 
were no stars; I thought it would rain, and there was no good 
God to stop the drops, so I came back to the town to get the 
shelter of some doorway. There in the square I lay down upon 
a stone; a good woman showed me your house, and said: 
'Knock there!' I have knocked. What is this place? Are 
you an inn ? I have money ; my savings, one hundred and nine 
francs and fifteen sous which I have earned in the galleys by 
my work for nineteen years. I will pay. What do I care? I 
have money. I am very tired twelve leagues on foot, and I am 
so hungry. Can I stay?" 

" Madame Magloire," said the bishop, " put on another 

The man took three steps, and came near the lamp which 
stood on the table. "Stop," he exclaimed; as if he had not 
been understood, " not that, did you understand me? I am a 
galley-slave a convict I am just from the galleys." He 
drew from his pocket a large sheet of yellow paper, which he 
unfolded. " There is my passport, yellow as you see. That is 
enough to have me kicked out wherever I go. Will you read it? 
I know how to read, I do. I learned in the galleys. There is 
a school there for those who care for it. See, here is what they 
have put in the passport: ' Jean Valjean, a liberated convict, 

native of / you don't care for that, ' has been nineteen years 

in the galleys; five years for burglary ; fourteen years for having 
attempted four times to escape. This man is very dangerous.' 
There you have it! Everybody has thrust me out; will you 
receive me? Is this an inn? Can you give me something to 
eat, and a place to sleep? Have you a stable? " 


/ ^ 

" Madame Magloire," said the bishop, " put some sheets on 
the bed in the alcove." 

We have already described the kind of obedience yielded by 
these two women. 

Madame Magloire went out to fulfil her orders. 

The bishop turned to the man: 

" Monsieur, sit down and warm yourself: we are going to take 
supper presently, and your bed will be made ready while you 

At last the man quite understood; his face, the expression 
of which till then had been gloomy and hard, now expressed 
stupefaction, doubt, and joy, and became absolutely wonderful. 
He began to stutter like a madman. 

" True ? What ! You will keep me ? you won't drive me 
away ? a convict ! You call me Monsieur and don't say ' Get 
out, dog ! ' as everybody else does. I thought that you would 
send me away, so I told first off who I am. Oh ! the fine woman 
who sent me here! I shall have a supper! a bed like other 
people with mattress and sheets a bed! It is nineteen years 
that I have not slept on a bed. You are really willing that I 
should stay? You are good people! Besides I have money: 
I will pay well. I beg your pardon, Monsieur Innkeeper, what 
is your name? I will pay all you say. You are a fine man. 
You are an innkeeper, an't you ? " 

" I am a priest who lives here," said the bishop. 

"A priest," said the man. "Oh, noble priest! Then you 
do not ask any money? You are the cure, an't you? the cure 
of this big church ? Yes, that's it. How stupid I am ; I didn't 
notice your cap." 

While speaking, he had deposited his knapsack and stick in 
the corner, replaced his passport in his pocket, and sat down. 
Mademoiselle Baptistine looked at him pleasantly. He con- 
tinued : 

" You are humane, Monsieur Cure; you don't despise me. 
A good priest is a good thing. Then you don't want me to 
pay you ? " 

" No," said the bishop, " keep your money. How much have 
you ? You said a hundred and nine francs, I think." 

" And fifteen sous," added the man. 

" One hundred and nine francs and fifteen sous. And how 
long did it take you to earn that? " 

" Nineteen years." 

" Nineteen vears ! " 

74 Lcs Miserables 

The bishop sighed deeply. 

The man continued: " I have all my money yet. In four 
days I have spent only twenty-five sous which I earned by un- 
loading wagons at Grasse. As you are an abbe, I must tell 
you, we have an almoner in the galleys. And then one day I 
saw a bishop; monseigneur, they called him. It was the Bishop 
of Majore from Marseilles. He is the cure" who is over the 
cures. You see beg pardon, how I bungle saying it, but for 
me, it is so far off 1 you know what we are. He said mass in 
the centre of the place on an altar; he had a pointed gold thing 
on his head, that shone in the sun; it was noon. We were 
drawn up in line on three sides, with cannons and matches 
lighted before us. We could not see him well. He spoke to us, 
but he was not near enough, we did not understand him. That 
is what a bishop is." 

While he was talking, the bishop shut the door, which he 
had left wide open. 

Madame Magloire brought in a plate and set it on the table. 

" Madame Magloire," said the bishop, " put this plate as 
near the fire as you can." Then turning towards his guest, he 
added: "The night wind is raw in the Alps; you must be 
cold, monsieur." 

Every time he said this word monsieur, with his gently 
solemn, and heartily hospitable voice, the man's countenance 
lighted up. Monsieur to a convict, is a glass of water to a man 
dying of thirst at sea. Ignominy thirsts for respect. 

" The lamp," said the bishop, " gives a very poor light." 

Madame Magloire understood him, and going to his bed- 
chamber, took from the mantel the two silver candlesticks, 
lighted the candles, and placed them on the table. 

" Monsieur Cur6," said the man, " you are good; you don't 
despise me. You take me into your house; you light your 
candles for me, and I hav'n't hid from you where I come from, 
and how miserable I am." 

The bishop, who was sitting near him, touched his hand 
gently and said: " You need not tell me who you are. This is 
not my house; it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any 
comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. 
You are suffering; you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome. 
And do not thank me; do not tell me that I take you into my 
house. This is the home of no man, except him who needs an 
asylum. I tell you, who are a traveller, that you are more at 
home here than I; whatever is here is yours. What need 

Fantine 75 

have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I 
knew it." 

The man opened his eyes in astonishment : 

" Really? You knew my name? " 

" Yes," answered the bishop, " your name is my brother." 

" Stop, stop, Monsieur CureV' exclaimed the man. " I was 
famished when I came in, but you are so kind that now I don't 
know what I am; that is all gone." 

The bishop looked at him again and said : 

" You have seen much suffering? " 

" Oh, the red blouse, the ball and chain, the plank to sleep 
on, the heat, the cold, the galley's crew, the lash, the double 
chain for nothing, the dungeon for a word, even when sick in 
bed, the chain. The dogs, the dogs are happier 1 nineteen years } 
and I am forty-six, and now a yellow passport. That is all." 

" Yes," answered the bishop, " you have left a place of suffer- 
ing. But listen, there will be more joy in heaven over the tears 
of a repentant sinner, than over the white robes of a hundred 
good men. If you are leaving that sorrowful place with hate 
and anger against men, you are worthy of compassion; if you 
leave it with goodwill, gentleness, and peace, you axe better 
than any of us." 

Meantime Madame Magloire had served up supper; it con- 
sisted of soup made of water, oil, bread, and salt, a little pork, 
a scrap of mutton, a few figs, a green cheese, and a large loaf 
of rye bread. She had, without asking, added to the usual 
dinner of the bishop a bottle of fine old Mauves wine. 

The bishop's countenance was lighted up with this expression 
of pleasure, peculiar to hospitable natures. " To supper ! " he 
said briskly, as was his habit when he had a guest. He seated 
the man at his right. Mademoiselle Baptistine, perfectly quiet 
and natural, took her place at his left. 

The bishop said the blessing, and then served the soup himself, 
according to his usual custom. The man fell to, eating greedily. 

Suddenly the bishop said: " It seems to me something is 
lacking on the table." 

The fact was, that Madame Magloire had set out only the 
three plates which were necessary. Now it was the custom of 
the house, when the bishop had any one to supper, to set all 
six of the silver plates on the table, an innocent display. This 
graceful appearance of luxury was a sort of childlikeness which 
was full of charm in this gentle but austere household, which 
elevated poverty to dignity. 

7 6 

Les Miserables 

Madame Magloire understood the remark; without a word 
she went out, and a moment afterwards the three plates for 
which the bishop had asked were shining on the cloth, sym- 
metrically arranged before each of three guests. 



Now, in order to give an idea of what passed at this table, we 
cannot do better than to transcribe here a passage in a letter 
from Mademoiselle Baptistine to Madame de Boischevron, in 
which the conversation between the convict and the bishop is 
related with charming minuteness. 

" This man paid no attention to any one. He ate with the 
voracity of a starving man. After supper, however, he said: 

" ' Monsieur Cure, all this is too good for me, but I must say 
that the wagoners, who wouldn't have me eat with them, live 
better than you.' 

" Between us, the remark shocked me a little. My brother 
answered : 

" ' They are more fatigued than I am.' 

" ' No,' responded this man; ' they have more money. You 
are poor, I can see. Perhaps you are not a cur even. Are 
you only a cure? Ahl if God is just, you well deserve to be a 

" ' God is more than just,' said my brother. 

" A moment after he added : 

" ' Monsieur Jean Valjean, you are going to Pontarlier? ' 

" ' A compulsory journey.' 

" I am pretty sure that is the expression the man used. 
Then he continued: 

" ' I must be on the road to-morrow morning by daybreak. 
It is a hard journey. If the nights are cold, the days are warm.' 

" ' You are going,' said my brother, ' to a fine country. 
During the revolution, when my family was ruined, I took 
refuge at first in Franche-Comte, and supported myself there 
for some time by the labour of my hands. There I found plenty 
of work, and had only to make my choice. There are paper- 
mills, tanneries, distilleries, oil-factories, large clock-making 
establishments, steel manufactories, copper foundries, at least 

Fantine 77 

twenty iron foundries, four of which, at Lods, Chatillion, Audin- 
court, and Beure, are very large.' 

" I think I am not mistaken, and that these are the names that 
my brother mentioned. Then he broke off and addressed me : 

" ' Dear sister, have we not relatives in that part of the 
country ? ' 

" I answered : 

"'We had; among others Monsieur Lucenet, who was 
captain of the gates at Pontarlier under the old regime.' 

" ' Yes,' replied my brother, ' but in '93, no one had relatives ; 
every one depended upon his hands. I laboured. They have, 
in the region of Pontarlier, where you are going, Monsieur Val- 
jean, a business which is quite patriarchal and very charming, 
sister. It is their dairies, which they call fruitieres.' 

" Then my brother, while helping this man at table, explained 
to him in detail what these fruitieres were; that they were 
divided into two kinds: the great barns, belonging to the rich, 
and where there are forty or fifty cows, which produce from 
seven to eight thousand cheeses during the summer; and the 
associated fruitieres, which belong to the poor; these comprise 
the peasants inhabiting the mountains, who put their cows into 
a common herd, and divide the proceeds. They hire a cheese- 
maker, whom they call a grurin ; the grurin receives the milk 
of the associates three times a day, and notes the quantities in 
duplicate. Towards the end of April the dairy work com- 
mences, and about the middle of June the cheese-makers drive 
their cows into the mountains. 

" The man became animated even while he was eating. My 
brother gave him some good Mauves wine, which he does not 
drink himself, because he says it is too dear. My brother gave 
him all these details with that easy gaiety which you know is 
peculiar to him, intermingling his words with compliments for 
me. He dwelt much upon the good condition of a grurin, as if 
he wished that this man should understand, without advising 
him directly, and abruptly, that it would be an asylum for him. 
One thing struck me. This man was what I have told you. 
Well! my brother, during the supper, and during the entire 
evening, with the exception of a few words about Jesus, when 
he entered, did not say a word which could recall to this man 
who he himself was, nor indicate to him who my brother was. 
It was apparently a fine occasion to get in a little sermon, and 
to set up the bishop above the convict in order to make an 
impression upon his mind. It would, perhaps, have appeared 

78 Les Miserables 

to some to be a duty, having this unhappy man in hand, to 
feed the mind at the same time with the body, and to administer 
reproof, seasoned with morality and advice, or at least a little 
pity accompanied by an exhortation to conduct himself better 
in future. My brother asked him neither his country nor his 
history; for his crime lay in his history, and my brother seemed 
to avoid everything which could recall it to him. At one time, 
as my brother was speaking of the mountaineers of Pontarlier, 
who have a pleasant labour near heaven, and who, he added, are 
happy, because they are innocent, he stopped short, fearing there 
might have been in this word which had escaped him something 
which could wound the feelings of this man. Upon reflection, I 
think I understand what was passing in my brother's mind, 
lie thought, doubtless, that this man, who called himself Jean 
Valjean, had his wretchedness too constantly before his mind; 
that it was best not to distress him by referring to it, and to 
make him think, if it were only for a moment, that he was a 
common person like any one else, by treating him thus in the 
ordinary way. Is not this really understanding charity? Is 
there not, dear madame, something truly evangelical in this 
delicacy, which abstains from sermonising, moralising, and 
making allusions, and is it not the wisest sympathy, when a 
man has a suffering point, not to touch upon it at all ? It seems 
to me that this was my brother's inmost thought. At any rate, 
all I can say is, if he had all these ideas, he did not show them 
even to me: he was, from beginning to end, the same as on 
other evenings, and he took supper with this Jean Valjean with 
the same air and manner that he would have supped with 
Monsieur Gedeon, the provost, or with the cur^ of the parish. 

" Towards the end, as we were at dessert, some one pushed 
the door open. It was mother Gerbaud with her child in her 
arms. My brother kissed the child, and borrowed fifteen sous 
that I had with me to give to mother Gerbaud. The man, 
during this time, paid but little attention to what passed. He 
did not speak, and appeared to be very tired. The poor old 
lady left, and my brother said grace, after which he turned 
towards this man and said : ' You must be in great need of 
sleep.' Madame Magloire quickly removed the cloth. I under- 
stood that we ought to retire in order that this traveller might 
sleep, and we both went to our rooms. However, in a few 
moments afterwards, I sent Madame Magloire to put on the bed 
of this man a roebuck skin from the Black Forest, which is in 
my chamber. The nights are quite cold, and this skin retains 

Fantine 79 

the warmth. It is a pity that it is quite old, and all the hair 
is gone. My brother bought it when he was in Germany, at 
Totlingen, near the sources of the Danube, as also the little 
ivory-handled knife, which I use at table. 

" Madame Magloire came back immediately, we said our 
prayers in the parlour which we use as a drying-room, and then 
we retired to our chambers without saying a word." 


AFTER having said good-night to his sister, Monseigneur 
Bienvenu took one of the silver candlesticks from the table, 
handed the other to his guest, and said to him: 

" Monsieur, I will show you to your room." 

The man followed him. 

As may have been understood from what has been said 
before, the house was so arranged that one could reach the 
alcove in the oratory only by passing through the bishop's 
sleeping chamber. Just as they were passing through this room 
Madame Magloire was putting up the silver in the cupboard at 
the head of the bed. It was the last thing she did every night 
before going to bed. 

The bishop left his guest in the alcove, before a clean white 
bed. The man set down the candlestick upon a small table. 

"Come," said the bishop, "a good night's rest to you: 
to-morrow morning, before you go, you shall have a cup of 
warm milk from our cows." 

" Thank you, Monsieur 1'Abbe," said the man. 

Scarcely had he pronounced these words of peace, when 
suddenly he made a singular motion which would have chilled 
the two good women of the house with horror, had they wit- 
nessed it. Even now it is hard for us to understaad what 
impulse he obeyed at that moment. Did he intend to give a 
warning or to throw out a menace ? Or was he simply obeying 
a sort of instinctive impulse, obscure ever to himself? He 
turned abruptly towards the old man, crossed his arms, and 
casting a wild look upon his host, exclaimed in a harsh voice : 

" Ah, now, indeed 1 You lodge me in your house, as near 
you as that ! " 

He checked himself, and added, with a laugh, in which there 
was something horrible: 

80 Les Miserables 

" Have you reflected upon it? Who tells you that I am not 
a murderer? " 

The bishop responded : 

" God will take care of that." 

Then with gravity, moving his lips like one praying or talking 
to himself, he raised two fingers of his right hand and blessed 
the man, who, however, did not bow; and without turning his 
head or looking behind him, went into his chamber. 

When the alcove was occupied, a heavy serge curtain was 
drawn in the oratory, concealing the altar. Before this curtain 
the bishop knelt as he passed out, and offered a short prayer. 

A moment afterwards he was walking in the garden, surrender- 
ing mind and soul to a dreamy contemplation of these grand 
and mysterious works of God, which night makes visible to 
the eye. 

As to the man, he was so completely exhausted that he did 
not even avail himself of the clean white sheets; he blew out 
the candle with his nostril, after the manner of convicts, and 
fell on the bed, dressed as he was, into a sound sleep. 

Midnight struck as the bishop came back to his chamber. 

A few moments afterwards all in the little house slept. 



TOWARDS the middle of the night, Jean Valjean awoke^ 

Jean Valjean was born of a poor peasant family of Brie. In 
his childhood he had not been taught to read: when he was 
grown up, he chose the occupation of a pruner at Faverolles. 
His mother's name was Jeanne Mathieu, his father's Jean 
Valjean or Vlajean, probably a nickname, a contraction of 
Voila J$an. 

Jean Valjean was of a thoughtful disposition, but not sad, 
which is characteristic of affectionate natures. Upon the whole, 
however, there was something torpid and insignificant, in the 
appearance at least, of Jean Valjean. He had lost his parents 
when very young. His mother died of malpractice in a milk- 
fever : his father, a pruner before him, was killed by a fall from 
a tree. Jean Valjean now had but one relative left, his sister, 
a widow with seven children, girls and boys. This sister had 
brought up Jean Valjean, and, as long as her husband lived, she 

Fantine 8 1 

had taken care of her young brother. Her husband died, 
leaving the eldest of these children eight, the youngest one year 
old. Jean Valjean had just reached his twenty-fifth year: he 
took the father's place, and, in his turn, supported the sister 
who reared him. This he did naturally, as a duty, and even 
with a sort of moroseness on his part. His youth was spent in 
rough and ill-recompensed labour : he never was known to have 
a sweetheart; he had not time to be in love. 

At night he came in weary and ate his soup without saying a 
word. While he was eating, his sister, Mere Jeanne, frequently 
took from his porringer the best of his meal; a bit of meat, a 
slice of pork, the heart of the cabbage, to give to one of her 
children. He went on eating, his head bent down nearly into 
the soup, his long hair falling over his dish, hiding his eyes, he- 
did not seem to notice anything that was done. At Faverolles,, 
not far from the house of the Valjeans, there was on the other 
side of the road a farmer's wife named Marie Claude; the 
Valjean children, who were always famished, sometimes went 
in their mother's name to borrow a pint of milk, which they 
would drink behind a hedge, or in some corner of the lane, 
snatching away the pitcher so greedily one from another, that 
the little girls would spill it upon their aprons and their necks; 
if their mother had known of this exploit she would have 
punished the delinquents severely. Jean Valjean, rough and 
grumbler as he was, paid Marie Claude; their mother never 
knew it, and so the children escaped. 

He earned in the pruning season eighteen sous a day: after 
that he hired out as reaper, workman, teamster, or labourer. 
He did whatever he could find to do. His sister worked also, 
but what could she do with seven little children? It was a sad 
group, which misery was grasping and closing upon, little by 
little. There was a very severe winter; Jean had no work, the 
family had no bread; literally, no bread, and seven children. 

One Sunday night, Maubert Isabeau, the baker on the Place 
de 1'Eglise, in Faverolles, was just going to bed when he heard 
a violent blow against the barred window of his shop. He got 
down in time to see an arm thrust through the aperture made 
by the blow of a fist on the glass. The arm seized a loaf of 
bread and took it out. Isabeau rushed out; the thief used his 
legs valiantly; Isabeau pursued him and caught him. The 
thief had thrown away the bread, but his arm was^still bleeding. 
It was Jean Valjean. 

All that happened in 1795. Jean Valjean was brought before 

82 Lcs Miserables 

the tribunals of the time for " burglary at night, in an inhabited 
house." He had a gun which he used as well as any marksman 
in the world, and was something of a poacher, which hurt him, 
there being a natural prejudice against poachers. The poacher, 
like the smuggler, approaches very nearly to the brigand. We 
must say, however, by the way, that there is yet a deep gulf 
between this race of men and the hideous assassin of the city. 
The poacher dwells in the forest, and the smuggler in the moun- 
tains or upon the sea; cities produce ferocious men, because 
they produce corrupt men; the mountains, the forest, and the 
sea, render men savage ; they develop the fierce, but yet do not 
destroy the human. 

Jean Valjean was found guilty: the terms of the code were 
explicit; in our civilisation there are fearful hours; such are 
those when the criminal law pronounces shipwreck upon a man. 
What a mournful moment is that in which society withdraws 
itself and gives up a thinking being for ever. Jean Valjean was 
sentenced to five years in the galleys. 

On the 22nd April, 1796, there was announced in Paris the 
victory of Montenotte, achieved by the commanding-general 
of the army of Italy, whom the message of the Directory, to the 
Five Hundred, of the 2nd Floreal, year IV., called Buonaparte; 
that same day a great chain was riveted at the Bicetre. Jean 
Valjean was a part of this chain. An old turnkey of the prison, 
now nearly ninety, well remembers this miserable man, who 
was ironed at the end of the fourth plinth in the north angle 
of the court. Sitting on the ground like the rest, he seemed to 
comprehend nothing of his position, except its horror: probably 
there was also mingled with the vague ideas of a poor ignorant 
man a notion that there was something excessive in the penalty. 
While they were with heavy hammer-strokes behind his head 
riveting the bolt of his iron collar, he was weeping. The tears 
choked his words, and he only succeeded in saying from time 
to time: " / was a pruner at Faverolles." Then sobbing as he 
was, he raised his right hand and lowered it seven times, as if 
he was touching seven heads of unequal height, and at this 
gesture one could guess that whatever he had done, had been 
to feed and clothe seven little children. 

He was taken to Toulon, at which place he arrived after a 
journey of twenty-seven days, on a cart, the chain still about 
his neck. At Toulon he was dressed in a red blouse, all his past 
life was effaced, even to his name. He was no longer Jean Val- 
jean: he was Number 24,601. What became of the sister? 

Fan tine 83 

What became of the seven children? Who troubled himself 
about that? What becomes of the handful of leaves of the 
young tree when it is sawn at the trunk? 

It is the old story. These poor little lives, these creatures of 
God, henceforth without support, or guide, or asylum; they 
passed away wherever chance led, who knows even ? Each took 
a different path, it may be, and sank little by little into the 
chilling dark which engulfs solitary destinies; that sullen gloom 
where are lost so many ill-fated souls in the sombre advance of 
the human race. They left that region; the church of what 
had been their village forgot them; the stile of what had been 
their field forgot them; after a few years in the galleys, even 
Jean Valjean forgot them. In that heart, in which there had 
been a wound, there was a scar; that was all. During the time 
he was at Toulon, he heard but once of his sister; that was, I 
think, at the end of the fourth year of his confinement. I do 
not know how the news reached him : some one who had known 
him at home had seen his sister. She was in Paris, living in a 
poor street near Saint Sulpice, the Rue du Geindre. She had 
with her but one child, the youngest, a little boy. Where were 
the other six? She did not know herself, perhaps. Every 
morning she went to a bindery, No. 3 Rue du Sabot, where she 
was employed as a folder and book-stitcher. She had to be 
there by six in the morning, long before the dawn in the winter. 
In the same building with the bindery, there was a school, where 
she sent her little boy, seven years old. As the school did not 
open until seven, and she must be at her work at six, her boy 
had to wait in the yard an hour, until the school opened an 
hour of cold and darkness in the winter. They would not let 
the child wait in the bindery, because he was troublesome, they 
said. The workmen, as they passed in the morning, saw the 
poor little fellow sometimes sitting on the pavement nodding 
with weariness, and often sleeping in the dark, crouched and 
bent over his basket. When it rained, an old woman, the 
portress, took pity on him ; she let him come into her lodge, the 
furniture of which was only a pallet bed, a spinning-wheel, and 
two wooden chairs; and the little one slept there in a corner, 
hugging the cat to keep himself warm. At seven o'clock the 
school opened and he went in. That is what was told Jean 
Valjean. It was as if a window had suddenly been opened, 
looking upon the destiny of those he had loved, and then all 
was closed again, and he heard nothing more for ever. Nothing 
more came to him; he had not seen them, never will he see 

8 4 

Les Miserables 

them again 1 and through the remainder of this sad history we 
shall not meet them again. 

Near the end of this fourth year, his chance of liberty came 
to Jean Valjean. His comrades helped him as they always do 
in that dreary place, and he escaped. He wandered two days 
in freedom through the fields; if it is freedom to be hunted, to 
turn your head each moment, to tremble at the least noise, to 
be afraid of everything, of the smoke of a chimney, the passing 
of a man, the baying of a dog, the gallop of a horse, the striking 
of a clock, of the day because you see, and of the night because 
you do not; of the road, of the path, the bush, of sleep. During 
the evening of the second day he was retaken; he had neither 
eaten nor slept for thirty-six hours. The maritime tribunal 
extended his sentence three years for this attempt, which made 
eight. In the sixth year his turn of escape came again; he 
tried it, but failed again. He did not answer at roll-call, and 
the alarm cannon was fired. At night the people of the vicinity 
discovered him hidden beneath the keel of a vessel on the 
stocks; he resisted the galley guard which seized him. Escape 
and resistance. This the provisions of the special code punished 
by an addition of five years, two with the double chain. Thirteen 
years. The tenth year his turn came round again; he made 
another attempt with no better success. Three years for this 
new attempt. Sixteen years. And finally, I think it was in 
the thirteenth year, he made yet another, and was retaken after 
an absence of only four hours. Three years for these four hours. 
Nineteen years. In October, 1815, he was set at large: he had 
entered in 1796 for having broken a pane of glass, and taken a 
loaf of bread. 

This is a place for a short parenthesis. This is the second 
time, in his studies on the penal question and on the sentences 
of the law, that the author of this book has met with the theft 
of a loaf of bread as the starting-point of the ruin of a destiny. 
Claude Gueux stole a loaf of bread; Jean Valjean stole a loaf 
of bread; English statistics show that in London starvation is 
the immediate cause of four thefts out of five. 

Jean Valjean entered the galleys sobbing and shuddering: he 
went out hardened; he entered in despair: he went out sullen. 

What had been the life of this soul? 

Fantine 85 



LET us endeavour to tell. 

It is an imperative necessity that society should look into 
these things: they are its own work. 

He was, as we have said, ignorant; but he was not imbecile. 
The natural light was enkindled in him. Misfortune, which has 
also its illumination, added to the few rays that he had in his 
mind. Under the whip, under the chain, in the cell, in fatigue, 
under the burning sun of the galleys, upon the convict's bed 
of plank, he turned to his own conscience, and he reflected. 

He constituted himself a tribunal. 

He began by arraigning himself. 

He recognised, that he was not an innocent man, unjustly 
punished. He acknowledged that he had committed an extreme 
and a blamable action; that the loaf perhaps would not have 
been refused him, had he asked for it; that at all events it would 
have been better to wait, either for pity, or for work ; that it is 
not altogether an unanswerable reply to say : " could I wait 
when I was hungry? " that, in the first place, it is very rare 
that any one dies of actual hunger; and that, fortunately or 
unfortunately, man is so made that he can suffer long and much, 
morally and physically, without dying; that he should, there- 
fore, have had patience ; that that would have been better even 
for those poor little ones; that it was an act of folly in him, 
poor, worthless man, to seize society in all its strength, forcibly 
by the collar, and imagine that he could escape from misery by 
theft; that that was, at all events, a bad door for getting out 
of misery by which one entered into infamy; in short, that he 
had done wrong. 

Then he asked himself: 

If he were the only one who had done wrong in the course of 
his fatal history? If, in the first place, it were not a grievous 
thing that he, a workman, should have been in want of work; 
that he, an industrious man, should have lacked bread. If, 
moreover, the fault having been committed and avowed, the 
punishment had not been savage and excessive. If there were 
not a greater abuse, on the part of the law, in the penalty, than 
there had been, on the part of the guilty, in the crime. If there 
were not an excess of weight in one of the scales of the balance 
on the side of the expiation. If the discharge of the penalty 

86 Les Miserables 

were not the effacement of the crime; and if the result were 
not to reverse the situation, to replace the wrong of the delin- 
quent by the wrong of the repression, to make a victim of the 
guilty, and a creditor of the debtor, and actually to put the 
right on the side of him who had violated it. If that penalty, 
taken in connection with its successive extensions for his 
attempts to escape, had not at last come to be a sort of outrage 
of the stronger on the weaker, a crime of society towards the 
individual, a crime which was committed afresh every day, a 
crime which had endured for nineteen years. 

He questioned himself if human society could have the right 
alike to crush its members, in the one case by its unreasonable 
carelessness, and in the other by its pitiless care; and to keep 
a poor man for ever between a lack and an excess, a lack of 
work, an excess of punishment. 

If it were not outrageous that society should treat with such 
rigid precision those of its members who were most poorly 
endowed in the distribution of wealth that chance had made, 
and who were, therefore, most worthy of indulgence. 

These questions asked and decided, he condemned society 
and sentenced it. 

He sentenced it to his hatred. 

He made it responsible for the doom which he had undergone, 
and promised himself that he, perhaps, would not hesitate some 
day to call it to an account. He declared to himself that there 
was no equity between the injury that he had committed and 
the injury that had been committed on him; he concluded, in 
short, that his punishment was not, really, an injustice, but that 
beyond all doubt it was an iniquity. 

Anger may be foolish and absurd, and one may be irritated 
when in the wrong; but a man never feels outraged unless in 
some respect he is at bottom right. Jean Valjean felt outraged. 

And then, human society had done him nothing but injury; 
never had he seen anything of her, but this wrathful face which 
she calls justice, and which she shows to those whom she strikes 
down. No man had ever touched him but to bruise him. All 
his contact with men had been by blows. Never, since his 
infancy, since his mother, since his sister, never had he been 
greeted with a friendly word or a kind regard. Through suffer- 
ing on suffering he came little by little to the conviction, that 
life was a war; and that in that war he was the vanquished. 
He had no weapon but his hate. He resolved to sharpen it in 
the galleys and to take it with him when he went out. 

Fantine 87 

There was at Toulon a school for the prisoners conducted by 
some not very skilful friars, where the most essential branches 
were taught to such of these poor men as were willing. He 
was one of the willing ones. He went to school at forty and 
learned to read, write, and cipher. He felt that to increase his 
knowledge was to strengthen his hatred. Under certain circum- 
stances, instruction and enlightenment may serve as rallying- 
points for evil. 

It is sad to tell; but after having tried society, which had 
caused his misfortunes, he tried Providence which created 
society, and condemned it also. 

Thus, during those nineteen years of torture and slavery, did 
this soul rise and fall at the same time. Light entered on the 
one side, and darkness on the other. 

Jean Valjean was not, we have seen, of an evil nature. His 
heart was still right when he arrived at the galleys. While 
there he condemned society, and felt that he became wicked; he 
condemned Providence, and felt that he became impious. 

It is difficult not to reflect for a moment here. 

Can human nature be so entirely transformed from top to 
bottom? Can man, created good by God, be made wicked by 
man? Can the soul be changed to keep pace with its destiny, 
and become evil when its destiny is evil? Can the heart become 
distorted and contract deformities and infirmities that are in- 
curable, under the pressure of a disproportionate woe, like the 
vertebral column under a too heavy brain? Is there not in 
every human soul ; was there not in the particular soul of Jean 
Valjean, a primitive spark, a divine element, incorruptible in 
this world, immortal in the next, which can be developed by 
good, kindled, lit up, and made resplendently radiant, and 
which evil can never entirely extinguish. 

Grave and obscure questions, to the last of which every 
physiologist would probably, without hesitation, have answered 
no, had he seen at Toulon, during the hours of rest, which to 
Jean Valjean were hours of thought, this gloomy galley-slave, 
seated, with folded arms, upon the bar of some windlass, the 
end of his chain stuck into his pocket that it might not drag, 
serious, silent, and thoughtful, a pariah of the law which views 
man with wrath, condemned by civilisation which views heaven 
with severity. 

Certainly, we will not conceal it, such a physiologist would 
have seen in Jean Valjean an irremediable misery; he would 
perhaps have lamented the disease occasioned by the law; but 

88 Les Miserables 

he would not even have attempted a cure; he would have turned 
from the sight of the caverns which he would have beheld in 
that soul; and, like Dante at the gate of Hell, he would have 
wiped out from that existence the word which the finger of God 
has nevertheless written upon the brow of every man Hope t 

Was that state of mind which we have attempted to analyse 
as perfectly clear to Jean Valjean as we have tried to render it 
to our readers? Did Jean Valjean distinctly see, after their 
formation, and had he distinctly seen, while they were forming, 
all the elements of which his moral misery was made up ? Had 
this rude and unlettered man taken accurate account of the 
succession of ideas by which he had, step by step, risen and 
fallen, till he had reached that mournful plane which for so 
many years already had marked the internal horizon of his 
mind? Had he a clear consciousness of all that was passing 
within him, and of all that was moving him? This we dare 
not affirm; we do not, in fact, believe it. Jean Valjean was 
too ignorant, even after so much ill fortune, for nice discrimina- 
tion in these matters. At times he did not even know exactly 
what were his feelings. Jean Valjean was in the dark; he 
suffered in the dark ; he hated in the dark ; we might say that 
he hated in his own sight. He lived constantly in this dark- 
ness, groping blindly and as in a dream. Only, at intervals, 
there broke over him suddenly, from within or from without, a 
shock of anger, an overflow of suffering, a quick pallid flash 
which lit up his whole soul, and showed all around him, before 
and behind, in the glare of a hideous light, the fearful precipices 
and the sombre perspectives of his fate. 

The flash passed away; the night fell, and where was he? 
He no longer knew. 

The peculiarity of punishment of this kind, in which what is 
pitiless, that is to say, what is brutalising, predominates, is to 
transform little by little, by a slow stupefaction., a man into an 
animal, sometimes into a wild beast. Jean Val jean's repeated 
and obstinate attempts to escape are enough to prove that such 
is the strange effect of the law upon a human soul. Jean 
Valjean had renewed these attempts, so wholly useless and 
foolish, as often as an opportunity offered, without one moment's 
thought of the result, or of experience already undergone. He 
escaped wildly, like a wolf on seeing his cage-door open. In- 
stinct said to him: " Away! " Reason said to him: " Stay! " 
But before a temptation so mighty, reason fled; instinct alone 
remained. The beast alone was in play. When he was retaken, 

Fantine 89 

the new severities that were inflicted upon him only made him 
still more fierce. 

We must not omit one circumstance, which is, that in physical 
strength he far surpassed all the other inmates of the prison. 
At hard work, at twisting a cable, or turning a windlass, Jean 
Valjean was equal to four men. He would sometimes lift and 
hold enormous weights on his back, and would occasionally act 
the part of what is called a jack, or what was called in old 
French an orgeuil, whence came the name, we may say by the 
way, of the Rue Montorgeuil near the Halles of Paris. His 
comrades had nicknamed him Jean the Jack. At one time, 
while the balcony of the City Hall of Toulon was undergoing 
repairs, one of Puget's admirable caryatides, which support the 
balcony, slipped from its place, and was about to fall, when 
Jean Valjean, who happened to be there, held it up on his 
shoulder till the workmen came. 

His suppleness surpassed his strength. Certain convicts, 
always planning escape, have developed a veritable science of 
strength and skill combined, the science of the muscles. A 
mysterious system of statics is practised throughout daily by 
prisoners, who are eternally envying the birds and flies. To 
scale a wall, and to find a foot-hold where you could hardly see 
a projection, was play for Jean Valjean. Given an angle in a 
wall, with the tension of his back and his knees, with elbows 
and hands braced against the rough face of the stone, he would 
ascend, as if by magic, to a third story. Sometimes he climbed 
up in this manner to the roof of the galleys. 

He talked but little, and never laughed. Some extreme 
emotion was required to draw from him, once or twice a year, 
that lugubrious sound of the convict, which is like the echo of 
a demon's laugh. To those who saw him, he seemed to be 
absorbed in continually looking upon something terrible. 

He was absorbed, in fact. 

Through the diseased perceptions of an incomplete nature 
and a smothered intelligence, he vaguely felt that a monstrous 
weight was over him. In that pallid and sullen shadow in 
which he crawled, whenever he turned his head and endeavoured 
to raise his eyes, he saw, with mingled rage and terror, forming, 
massing, and mounting up out of view above him with horrid 
escarpments, a kind of frightful accumulation of things, of laws, 
of prejudices, of men, and of acts, the outlines of which escaped 
him, the weight of which appalled him, and which was no other 
than that prodigious pyramid that we call civilisation. Here 

90 Les Miserables 

and there in that shapeless and crawling mass, sometimes near 
at hand, sometimes afar off, and upon inaccessible heights, he 
distinguished some group, some detail vividly clear, here the 
jailer with his staff, here the gendarme with his sword, yonder 
the mitred archbishop ; and on high, in a sort of blaze of glory, 
the emperor crowned and resplendent. ^ It seemed to him that 
these distant splendours, far from dissipating his night, made 
it blacker and more deathly. All this, laws, prejudices, acts, 
men, things, went and came above him, according to the com- 
plicated and mysterious movement that God impresses upon 
civilisation, marching over him and crushing him with an in- 
describably tranquil cruelty and inexorable indifference. Souls 
sunk to the bottom of possible misfortune, and unfortunate 
men lost in the lowest depths, where they are no longer seen, 
the rejected of the law, feel upon their heads the whole weight 
of that human society, so formidable to him who is without it, 
so terrible to him who is beneath it. 

In such a situation Jean Valjean mused, and what could be 
the nature of his reflections ? 

If a millet seed under a millstone had thoughts, doubtless it 
would think what Jean Valjean thought. 

All these things, realities full of spectres, phantasmagoria full 
of realities, had at last produced within him a condition which 
was almost inexpressible. 

Sometimes in the midst of his work in the galleys he would 
stop, and begin to think. His reason, more mature, and, at 
the same time, perturbed more than formerly, would revolt. 
All that had happened to him would appear absurd; all that 
surrounded him would appear impossible. He would say to 
himself: " it is a dream." He would look at the jailer standing 
a few steps from him; the jailer would seem to be a phantom; 
all at once this phantom would give him a blow with a stick. 

For him the external world had scarcely an existence. It 
would be almost true to say that for Jean Valjean there was no 
sun, no beautiful summer days, no radiant sky, no fresh April 
dawn. Some dim window light was all that shone in his soul. 

To sum up, in conclusion, what can be summed up and 
reduced to positive results, of all that we have been showing, 
we will make sure only of this, that in the course of nineteen 
years, Jean Valjean, the inoffensive pruner of Faverolles, the 
terrible galley-slave of Toulon, had become capable, thanks 
to the training he had received in the galleys, of two species of 
crime; first, a sudden, unpremeditated action, full of rashness, 

Fantine 91 

all instinct, a sort of reprisal for the wrong he had suffered; 
secondly, a serious, premeditated act, discussed by his con- 
science, and pondered over with the false ideas which such a 
fate will give. His premeditations passed through the three 
successive phases to which natures of a certain stamp are 
limited reason, will, and obstinacy. He had as motives, 
habitual indignation, bitterness of soul, a deep sense of injuries 
suffered, a reaction even against the good, the innocent, and 
the upright, if any such there are. The beginning as well as 
the end of all his thoughts was hatred of human law; that 
hatred which, if it be not checked in its growth by some pro- 
vidential event, becomes, in a certain time, hatred of society, 
then hatred of the human race, and then hatred of creation. 
and reveals itself by a vague and incessant desire to injure 
some living being, it matters not who. So, the passport was 
right which described Jean Valjean as a very dangerous man. 

From year to year this soul had withered more and more, 
slowly, but fatally. With this withered heart, he had a dry 
eye. When he left the galleys, he had not shed a tear foi 
nineteen years. 


A MAN overboard! 

What matters it ! the ship does not stop. The wind is blow- 
ing, that dark ship must keep on her destined course. She 
passes away. 

The man disappears, then reappears, he plunges and rises 
again to the surface, he calls, he stretches out his hands, they 
hear him not; the ship, staggering under the gale, is straining 
every rope, the sailors and passengers see the drowning man 
no longer; his miserable head is but a point in the vastness of 
the billows. 

He hurls cries of despair into the depths. What a spectre 
is that disappearing sail! He looks upon it, he looks upon it 
with frenzy. It moves away; it grows dim; it diminishes. 
He was there but just now, he was one of the crew, he went 
and came upon the deck with the rest, he had his share of the 
air and of the sunlight, he was a living man. Now, what has 
become of him? He slipped, he fell; and it is finished. 

He is in the monstrous deep. He has nothing under his feet 

92 Les Miserables 

but the yielding, fleeing element. The waves, torn and scattered 
by the wind, close round him hideously; the rolling of the abyss 
bears him along; shreds of water are flying about his head; a 
populace of waves spit upon him; confused openings half 
swallow him; when he sinks he catches glimpses of yawning 
precipices full of darkness; fearful unknown vegetations seize 
upon him, bind his feet, and draw him to themselves; he feels 
that he is becoming the great deep ; he makes part of the foam ; 
the billows toss him from one to the other; he tastes the bitter- 
ness; the greedy ocean is eager to devour him; the monster 
plays with his agony. It seems as if all this were liquid hate. 

But yet he struggles. 

He tries to defend himself; he tries to sustain himself; he 
struggles; he swims. He that poor strength that fails so 
soon he combats the unfailing. 

Where now is the ship? Far away yonder. Hardly visible 
in the pallid gloom of the horizon. 

The wind blows in gusts; the billows overwhelm him. He 
raises his eyes, but sees only the livid clouds. He, in his dying 
agony, makes part of this immense insanity of the sea. He 
is tortured to his death by its immeasurable madness. He 
hears sounds, which are strange to man, sounds which seem to 
come not from earth, but from some frightful realm beyond. 

There are birds in the clouds, even as there are angels above 
human distresses, but what can they do for him? They fly, 
sing, float, while he is gasping. 

He feels that he is buried at once by those two infinites, the 
ocean and the sky ; the one is a tomb, the other a pall. 

Night descends, he has been swimming for hours, his strength 
is almost exhausted; that ship, that far off thing, where there 
were men, is gone ; he is alone in the terrible gloom of the abyss ; 
he . sinks, he strains, he struggles, he feels beneath him the 
shadowy monsters of the unseen; he shouts. 

Men are no more. Where is God? 

He shouts. Help! help! He shouts incessantly; 

Nothing in the horizon. Nothing in the sky. 

He implores the blue vault, the waves, the rocks ; all are deaf. 
He supplicates the tempest; the imperturbable tempest obeys 
only the infinite. 

Around him are darkness, storm, solitude, wild and uncon- 
scious tumult, the ceaseless tumbling of the fierce waters; 
within him, horror and exhaustion. Beneath him the engulfing 
abyss. No resting-place. He thinks of the shadowy adventures 

Fantine 93 

of his lifeless body in the limitless gloom. The biting cold 
paralyses him. His hands clutch spasmodically, and grasp at 
nothing. Winds, clouds, whirlwinds, blasts, stars, all useless! 
What shall he do? He yields to despair; worn out, he seeks 
death; he no longer resists; he gives himself up; he abandons 
the contest, and he is rolled away into the dismal depths of the 
abyss for ever. 

implacable march of human society! Destruction of men 
and of souls marking its path ! Ocean, where fall all that the 
law lets fall ! Ominous disappearance of aid ! moral death ! 

The sea is the inexorable night into which the penal law casts 
its victims. The sea is the measureless misery. 

The soul drifting in that sea may become a corpse. Who 
shall restore it to life? 



WHEN the time for leaving the galleys came, and when there 
were sounded in the ear of Jean Valjean the strange words: 
You are free! the moment seemed improbable and unreal; a 
ray of living light, a ray of the true light of living men, suddenly 
penetrated his soul. But this ray quickly faded away. Jean 
Valjean had been dazzled with the idea of liberty. He had 
believed in a new life. He soon saw what sort of liberty that 
is which has a yellow passport. 

And along with that there were many bitter experiences. 
He had calculated that his savings, during his stay at the galleys, 
would amount to a hundred and seventy-one francs. It is 
proper to say that he had forgotten to take into account the 
compulsory rest on Sundays and holydays, which, in nineteen 
years, required a deduction of about twenty-four francs. How- 
ever that might be, his savings had been reduced, by various 
local charges, to the sum of a hundred and nine francs and 1 
fifteen sous, which was counted out to him on his departure. 

He understood nothing of this, and thought himself wronged, 
or, to speak plainly, robbed. 

The day after his liberation, he saw before the door of an 
orange flower distillery at Grasse, some men who were unloading 
bags. He offered his services. They were in need of help and 
accepted them. He set at work. He was intelligent, robust, 
and handy; he did his best; the foreman appeared to be 

94 Les Miserables 

satisfied. While he was at work, a gendarme passed, noticed 
him, and asked for his papers. He was compelled to show the 
yellow passport. That done, Jean Valjean, resumed his work. 
A little while before, he had asked one of the labourers how 
much they were paid per day for this work, and the reply was: 
thirty sous. At night, as he was obliged to leave the town next 
morning, he went to the foreman of the distillery, and asked for 
his pay. The foreman did not say a word, but handed him 
fifteen sous. He remonstrated. The man replied: " That 
is good enough for you." He insisted. The foreman looked 
him in the eyes and said: " Look out for the lock-up I " 

There again he thought himself robbed. 

Society, the state, in reducing his savings, had robbed him 
by wholesale. Now it was the turn of the individual, who was 
robbing him by retail. 

Liberation is not deliverance. A convict may leave the 
galleys behind, but not his condemnation. 

This was what befell him at Grasse. We have seen how he 
was received at D . 

As the cathedral clock struck two, Jean Valjean awoke. 

What awakened him was, too good a bed. For nearly twenty 
years he had not slept in a bed, and, although he had not un- 
dressed, the sensation was too novel not to disturb his sleep. 

He had slept something more than four hours. His fatigue 
had passed away. He was not accustomed to give many hours 
to repose. 

He opened his eyes, and looked for a moment into the 
obscurity about him, then he closed them to go to sleep again. 

When many diverse sensations have disturbed the day, when 
the mind is preoccupied, we can fall asleep once, but not a second 
time. Sleep comes at first much more readily than it comes 
again. Such was the case with Jean Valjean. He could not 
get to sleep again, and so he began to think. 

He was in one of those moods in which the ideas we have in 
our minds are perturbed. There was a kind of vague ebb and 
flow in his brain. His oldest and his latest memories floated 
about pell mell, and crossed each other confusedly, losing their 
own shapes, swelling beyond measure, then disappearing all at 

Fantine 95 

once, as if in a muddy and troubled stream. Many thoughts 
came to him, but there was one which continually presented 
itself, and which drove away all others. What that thought 
was, we shall tell directly. He had noticed the six silver plates 
and the large ladle that Madame Magloire had put on the table. 

Those six silver plates took possession of him. There they 
were, within a few steps. At the very moment that he passed 
through the middle room to reach the one he was now in, the 
old servant was placing them in a little cupboard at the head 
of the bed. He had marked that cupboard well: on the right, 
coming from the dining-room. They were solid ; and old silver. 
With the big ladle, they would bring at least two hundred francs, 
double what he had got for nineteen years' labour. True; he 
would have got more if the " government " had not " robbed " 

His mind wavered a whole hour, and a long one, in fluctua- 
tion and in struggle. The clock struck three. He opened his 
eyes, rose up hastily in bed, reached out his arm and felt his 
haversack, which he had put into the corner of the alcove, then 
he thrust out his legs and placed his feet on the ground, and 
found himself, he knew not how, seated on his bed. 

He remained for some time lost in thought in that attitude, 
which would have had a rather ominous look, had any one seen 
him there in the dusk he only awake in the slumbering house. 
All at once he stooped down, took off his shoes, and put them 
softly upon the mat in front of the bed, then he resumed his 
thinking posture, and was still again. 

In that hideous meditation, the ideas which we have been 
pointing out, troubled his brain without ceasing, entered, 
departed, returned, and became a sort of weight upon him; 
and then he thought, too, he knew not why, and with that 
mechanical obstinacy that belongs to reverie, of a convict 
named Brevet, whom he had known in the galleys, and whose 
trousers were only held up by a single knit cotton suspender. 
The checked pattern of that suspender came continually before 
his mind. 

He continued in this situation, and would perhaps have 
remained there until daybreak, if the clock had not struck the 
quarter or the half-hour. The clock seemed to say to him: 
" Come along ! " 

He rose to his feet, hesitated for a moment longer, and 
listened; all was still in the house; he walked straight and 
cautiously towards the window, which he could discern. The 

96 Les Miserables 

night was not very dark; there was a full moon, across which 
large clouds were driving before the wind. This produced 
alternations of light and shade, out-of-doors eclipses and 
illuminations, and in-doors a kind of glimmer. This glimmer, 
enough to enable him to find his way, changing with the pass- 
ing clouds, resembled that sort of livid light, which falls through 
the window of a dungeon before which men are passing and 
repassing. On reaching the window, Jean Valjean examined 
it. It had no bars, opened into the garden, and was fastened, 
according to the fashion of the country, with a little wedge only. 
He opened it; but as the cold, keen air rushed into the room, 
he closed it again immediately. He looked into the garden 
with that absorbed look which studies rather than sees. The 
garden was enclosed with a white wall, quite low, and readily 
scaled. Beyond, against the sky, he distinguished the tops of 
trees at equal distances apart, which showed that this wall 
separated the garden from an avenue or a lane planted with 

When he had taken this observation, he turned like a man 
whose mind is made up, went to his alcove, took his haversack, 
opened it, fumbled in it, took out something which he laid upon 
the bed, put his shoes into one of his pockets, tied up his bundle, 
swung it upon his shoulders, put on his cap, and pulled the vizor 
down over his eyes, felt for his stick, and went and put it in the 
corner of the window, then returned to the bed, and resolutely 
took up the object which he had laid on it. It looked like a 
short iron bar, pointed at one end like a spear. 

It would have been hard to distinguish in the darkness for 
what use this piece of iron had been made. Could it be a lever ? 
Could it be a club ? 

In the day-time, it would have been seen to be nothing but 
a miner's drill. At that time, the convicts were sometimes 
employed in quarrying stone on the high hills that surround 
Toulon, and they often had miners' tools in their possession. 
Miners' drills are of solid iron, terminating at the lower end in 
a point, by means of which they are sunk into the rock. 

He took the drill in his right hand, and holding his breath, 
with stealthy steps, he moved towards the door of the next 
room, which was the bishop's, as we know. On reaching the 
door, he found it unlatched. The bishop had not closed it. 

Fantine 97 



JEAN VALJEAN listened. Not a sound. 

He pushed the door. 

He pushed it lightly with the end of his finger, with the 
stealthy and timorous carefulness of a cat. The door yielded 
to the pressure with a silent, imperceptible movement, which 
made the opening a little wider. 

He waited a moment, and then pushed the door again more 

It yielded gradually and silently. The opening was now wide 
enough for him to pass through; but there was a small table 
near the door which with it formed a troublesome angle, and 
which barred the entrance. 

Jean Valjean saw the obstacle. At all hazards the opening 
must be made still wider. 

He so determined, and pushed the door a third time, harder 
than before. This time a rusty hinge suddenly sent out into 
the darkness a harsh and prolonged creak. 

Jean Valjean shivered. The noise of this hinge sounded in 
his ears as clear and terrible as the trumpet of the Judgment 

In the fantastic exaggeration of the first moment, he almost 
imagined that this hinge had become animate, and suddenly 
endowed with a terrible life; and that it was barking like a dog 
to warn everybody, and rouse the sleepers. 

He stopped, shuddering and distracted, and dropped from 
his tiptoes to his feet. He felt the pulses of his temples beat like 
trip-hammers, and it appeared to him that his breath came from 
his chest with the roar of wind from a cavern. It seemed im- 
possible that the horrible sound of this incensed hinge had not 
shaken the whole house with the shock of an earthquake: the 
door pushed by him had taken the alarm, and had called out; 
the old man would arise; the two old women would scream; 
help would come; in a quarter of an hour the town would be 
alive with it, and the gendarmes in pursuit. For a moment 
he thought he was lost. 

He stood still, petrified like the pillar of salt, not daring to 
stir. Some minutes passed. The door was wide open; he 
ventured a look into the roonu Nothing had moved. He 

I D 

9 8 

Les Miserables 

listened. Nothing was stirring in the house. The noise of the 
rusty hinge had wakened nobody. 

This first danger was over, but still he felt within him a fright- 
ful tumult. Nevertheless he did not flinch. Not even when 
he thought he was lost had he flinched. His only thought was 
to make an end of it quickly. He took one step and was in the 

A deep calm filled the chamber. Here and there indistinct, 
confused forms could be distinguished; which by day, were 
papers scattered over a table, open folios, books piled on a stool, 
an arm-chair with clothes on it, a prie-dieu, but now were only 
dark corners and whitish spots. Jean Valjean advanced, care- 
fully avoiding the furniture. At the further end of the room 
he could hear the equal and quiet breathing of the sleeping 

Suddenly he stopped : he was near the bed, he had reached it 
sooner than he thought. 

Nature sometimes joins her effects and her appearances to 
our acts with a sort of serious and intelligent appropriateness, 
as if she would compel us to reflect. For nearly a half hour a 
great cloud had darkened the sky. At the moment when Jean 
Valjean paused before the bed the cloud broke as if purposely, 
and a ray of moonlight crossing the high window, suddenly 
lighted up the bishop's pale face. He slept tranquilly. He 
was almost entirely dressed, though in bed, on account of the 
cold nights of the lower Alps, with a dark woollen garment which 
covered his arms to the wrists. His head had fallen on the 
pillow in the unstudied attitude of slumber; over the side of 
the bed hung his hand, ornamented with the pastoral ring, and 
which had done so many good deeds, so many pious acts. His 
entire countenance was lit up with a vague expression of content, 
hope, and happiness. It was more than a smile and almost a 
radiance. On his forehead rested the indescribable reflection 
of an unseen light. The souls of the upright in sleep have vision 
of a mysterious heaven. 

A reflection from this heaven shone upon the bishop. 

But it was also a luminous transparency, for this heaven was 
within him; this heaven was his conscience. 

At the instant when the moonbeam overlay, so to speak, this 
inward radiance, the sleeping bishop appeared as if in a halo. 
But it was very mild, and veiled in an ineffable twilight. The 
moon in the sky, nature drowsing, the garden without a pulse, 
the quiet house, the hour, the moment, the silence, added some- 

Fantine 99 

thing strangely solemn and unutterable to the venerable repose 
of this man, and enveloped his white locks and his closed eyes 
with a serene and majestic glory, this face where all was hope 
and confidence this old man's head and infant's slumber. 

There was something of divinity almost in this man, thus 
unconsciously august. 

Jean Valjean was in the shadow with the iron drill in his hand, 
erect, motionless, terrified, at this radiant figure. He had never 
seen anything comparable to it. This confidence filled him with 
fear. The moral world has no greater spectacle than this; a 
troubled and restless conscience on the verge of committing an 
evil deed, contemplating the sleep of a good man. 

This sleep in this solitude, with a neighbour such as he, 
contained a touch of the sublime, which he felt vaguely but 

None could have told what was within him, not even himself. 
To attempt to realise it, the utmost violence must be imagined 
in the presence of the most extreme mildness. In his face 
nothing could be distinguished with certainty. It was a sort 
of haggard astonishment. He saw it; that was all. But what 
were his thoughts; it would have been impossible to guess. It 
was clear that he was moved and agitated. But of what nature 
was this emotion? 

He did not remove his eyes from the old man. The only thing 
which was plain from his attitude and his countenance was a 
strange indecision. You would have said he was hesitating 
between two realms, that of the doomed and that of the saved. 
He appeared ready either to cleave this skull, or to kiss this 

In a few moments he raised his left hand slowly to his fore- 
head and took off his hat; then, letting his hand fall with the 
same slowness, Jean Valjean resumed his contemplations, his 
cap in his left hand, his club in his right, and his hair bristling 
on his fierce-looking head. 

Under this frightful gaze the bishop still slept in profoundest 

The crucifix above the mantelpiece was dimly visible in the 
moonlight, apparently extending its arms towards both, with a 
benediction for one and a pardon for the other. 

Suddenly Jean Valjean put on his cap, then passed quickly, 
without looking at the bishop, along the bed, straight to the 
cupboard which he perceived near its head; he raised the drill 
to force the lock ; the key was in it; he opened it; the first thing 

ioo Les Miserables 

he saw was the basket of silver, he took it, crossed the room with 
hasty stride, careless of noise, reached the door, entered the 
oratory, took his stick, stepped out, put the silver in his knap- 
sack, threw away the basket, ran across the garden, leaped over 
the wall like a tiger, and fled. 

THE next day at sunrise, Monseigneur Bienvenu was walking 
in the garden. Madame Magloire ran towards him quite beside 

" Monseigneur, monseigneur," cried she, " does your greatness 
know where the silver basket is ? " 

" Yes," said the bishop. 

" God be praised ! " said she, " I did not know what had 
become of it." 

The bishop had just found the basket on a flower-bed. He 
gave it to Madame Magloire and said: " There it is." 

" Yes," said she, " but there is nothing in it. The silver? " 

"Ah! " said the bishop, " it is the silver then that troubles 
3'ou. I do not know where that is." 

" Good heavens ! it is stolen. That man who came last night 
stole it." 

And in the twinkling of an eye, with all the agility of which 
her age was capable, Madame Magloire ran to the oratory, went 
into the alcove, and came back to the bishop. The bishop was 
bending with some sadness over a cochlearia des Guillons, which 
the basket had broken in falling. He looked up at Madame 
Magloire's cry: 

" Monseigneur, the man has gone! the silver is stolen! " 

While she was uttering this exclamation her eyes fell on an 
angle of the garden where she saw traces of an escalade. A 
capstone of the wall had been thrown down. 

" See, there is where he got out; he jumped into Cochefilet 
lane. The abominable fellow ! he has stolen our silver ! " 

The bishop was silent for a moment, then raising his serious 
eyes, he said mildly to Madame Magloire: 

" Now first, did this silver belong to us? " 

Madame Magloire did not answer; after a moment the bishop 
continued : 

" Madame Magloire, I have for a long time wrongfully with- 

Fantine i o I 

held this silver; it belonged to the poor. Who was this man? 
A poor man evidently." 

" Alas 1 alas ! " returned Madame Magloire. " It is not on my 
account or mademoiselle's; it is all the same to us. But it is on 
yours, monseigneur. What is monsieur going to eat from now ? " 

The bishop looked at her with amazement: 

" How so ! have we no tin plates ? " 

Madame Magloire shrugged her shoulders. 

" Tin smells." 

" Well, then, iron plates." 

Madame Magloire made an expressive gesture. 

" Iron tastes." 

" Well," said the bishop, " then, wooden plates." 

In a few minutes he was breakfasting at the same table at 
which Jean Valjean sat the night before. While breakfasting, 
Monseigneur Bienvenu pleasantly remarked to his sister who 
said nothing, and Madame Magloire who was grumbling to 
herself, that there was really no need even of a wooden spoon 
or fork to dip a piece of bread into a cup of milk. 

" Was there ever such an idea? " said Madame Magloire to 
herself, as she went backwards and forwards: "to take in a 
man like that, and to give him a bed beside him ; and yet what 
a blessing it was that he did nothing but steal ! Oh, my stars ! 
it makes the chills run over me when I think of it ! " 

Just as the brother and sister were rising from the table, 
there was a knock at the door, 

" Come in," said the bishop. 

The door opened. A strange, fierce group appeared on the 
threshold. Three men were holding a fourth by the collar. 
The three men were gendarmes; the fourth Jean Valjean. 

A brigadier of gendarmes, who appeared to head the group, 
was near the door. He advanced towards the bishop, giving 
a military salute. 

" Monseigneur," said he 

At this word Jean Valjean, who was sullen and seemed 
entirely cast down, raised his head with a stupefied air 

" Monseigneur ! " he murmured, " then it is not the cure" 1 " 

" Silence ! " said a gendarme, " it is monseigneur, the bishop." 

In the meantime Monsieur Bienvenu had approached as 
quickly as his great age permitted : 

" Ah, there you are! " said he, looking towards Jean Valjean, 
"I am glad to see you. But! I gave you the candlesticks 
also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred 

IO2 Les Miserables 

francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates? " 

Jean Valjean opened his eyes and looked at the bishop with 
an expression which no human tongue could describe. 

" Monseigneur," said the brigadier, " then what this man said 
was true? We met him. He was going like a man who was 
running away, and we arrested him in order to see. He had 
this silver." 

" And he told you," interrupted the bishop, with a smile, 
" that it had been given him by a good old priest with whom he 
had passed the night. I see it all. And you brought him back 
here? It is all a mistake." 

" If that is so," said the brigadier, " we can let him go." 

" Certainly," replied the bishop. 

The gendarmes released Jean Valjean, who shrank back 

" Is it true that they let me go? " he said in a voice almost 
inarticulate, as if he were speaking in his sleep. 

"Yes! you can go. Do you not understand?" said a 

" My friend," said the bishop, " before you go away, here are 
your candlesticks; take them." 

He went to the mantelpiece, took the two candlesticks, and 
brought them to Jean Valjean. The two women beheld the 
action without a word, or gesture, or look, that might disturb 
the bishop. 

Jean Valjean was trembling in every limb. He took the two 
candlesticks mechanically, and with a wild appearance. 

" Now," said the Bishop, " go in peace. By the way, my 
friend, when you come again, you need not come through the 
garden. You can always come in and go out by the front door. 
It is closed only with a latch, day or night." 

Then turning to the gendarmes, he said: 

" Messieurs, you can retire." The gendarmes withdrew. 

Jean Valjean felt like a man who is just about to faint. 

The bishop approached him, and said, in a low voice: 

" Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use 
this silver to become an honest man." 

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of this promise, stood 
confounded. The bishop had laid much stress upon these 
words as he uttered them. He continued, solemnly : 

" Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, 
but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I with- 
draw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, 
and I give it to God ! " 

Fantine 103 



JEAN VALJEAN went out of the city as if he were escaping. He 
made all haste to get into the open country, taking the first 
lanes and by-paths that offered, without noticing that he was 
every moment retracing his steps. He wandered thus all the 
morning. He had eaten nothing, but he felt no hunger. He 
was the prey of a multitude of new sensations. He felt some- 
what angry, he knew not against whom. He could not have 
told whether he were touched or humiliated. There came over 
him, at times, a strange relenting which he struggled with, and 
to which he opposed the hardening of his past twenty years. 
This condition wearied him. He saw, with disquietude, shaken 
within him that species of frightful calm which the injustice of 
his fate had given him. He asked himself what should replace it. 
At times he would really have liked better to be in prison with 
the gendarmes, and that things had not happened thus; that 
would have given him less agitation. Although the season was 
well advanced, there were yet here and there a few late flowers 
in the hedges, the odour of which, as it met him in his walk, 
recalled the memories of his childhood. These memories were 
almost insupportable, it was so long since they had occurred to 

Unspeakable thoughts thus gathered in his mind the whole 

As the sun was sinking towards the horizon, lengthening the 
shadow on the ground of the smallest pebble, Jean Valjean was 
seated behind a thicket in a large reddish plain, an absolute 
desert. There was no horizon but the Alps. Not even the 
steeple of a village church. Jean Valjean might have been 

three leagues from D . A by-path which crossed the plain 

passed a few steps from the thicket. 

In the midst of this meditation, which would have heightened 
not a little the frightful effect of his rags to any one who might 
have met him, he heard a joyous sound. 

He turned his head, and saw coming along the path a little 
Savoyard, a dozen years old, singing, with his hurdygurdy at 
his side, and his marmot box on his back. 

One of those pleasant and gay youngsters who go from place 
to place, with their knees sticking through their trousers. 

Always singing, the boy stopped from time to time, and 

i 04 Les Miserables 

played at tossing up some pieces of money that he had in his 
hand, probably his whole fortune. Among them there was one 
forty-sous piece. 

The boy stopped by the side of the thicket without seeing 
Jean Valjean, and tossed up his handful of sous; until this time 
he had skilfully caught the whole of them upon the back of his 

This time the forty-sous piece escaped him, and rolled towards 
the thicket, near Jean Valjean. 

Jean Valjean put his foot upon it. 

The boy, however, had followed the piece with his eye, and 
had seen where it went. 

He was not frightened, and walked straight to the man. 

It was an entirely solitary place. Far as the eye could reach 
there was no one on the plain or in the path. Nothing could 
be heard, but the faint cries of a flock of birds of passage, that 
were flying across the sky at an immense height. The child 
turned his back to the sun, which made his hair like threads of 
gold, and flushed the savage face of Jean Valjean with a lurid 

" Monsieur," said the little Savoyard, with that childish 
confidence which is made up of ignorance and innocence, " my 
piece? " 

" What is your name? " said Jean Valjean, 

" Petit Gervais, monsieur." 

" Get out," said Jean Valjean. 

" Monsieur," continued the boy, " give me my piece." 

Jean Valjean dropped his head and did not answer. 

The child began again: 

" My piece, monsieur ! " 

Jean Valjean's eye remained fixed on the ground. 

"My piece!" exclaimed the boy, "my white piece! my 

Jean Valjean did not appear to understand. The boy took 
him by the collar of his blouse and shook him. And at the same 
time he made an effort to move the big, iron-soled shoe which 
was placed upon his treasure. 

" I want my piece ! my forty-sous piece ! " 

The child began to cry. Jean Valjean raised his head. He 
still kept his seat. His look was troubled. He looked upon the 
boy with an air of wonder, then reached out his hand towards 
his stick, and exclaimed in a terrible voice: " Who is there? " 

"Me, monsieur," answered the boy. "Petit Gervais! me! 

Fantine 105 

me ! give me my forty sous, if you please ! Take away your foot, 
monsieur, if you please ! " Then becoming angry, small as he 
was, and almost threatening : 

" Come, now, will you take away your foot? Why don't you 
take away your foot? " 

" Ah I you here yet I " said Jean Valjean, and rising hastily 
to his feet, without releasing the piece of money, he added: 
" You'd better take care of yourself! " 

The boy looked at him in terror, then began to tremble from 
head to foot, and after a few seconds of stupor, took to flight and 
ran with all his might without daring to turn his head or to utter 
a cry. 

At a little distance, however, he stopped for want of breath, 
and Jean Valjean in his reverie heard him sobbing* 

In a few minutes the boy was gone. 

The sun had gone down. 

The shadows were deepening around Jean Valjean. He had 
not eaten during the day; probably he had some fever. 

He had remained standing, and had not change his attitude 
since the child fled. His breathing was at long and unequal 
intervals. His eyes were fixed on a spot ten or twelve steps 
before him, and seemed to be studying with profound atten- 
tion the form of an old piece of blue crockery that was lying in 
the grass. All at once he shivered; he began to feel the cold 
night air. 

He pulled his cap down over his forehead, sought mechanically 
to fold and button his blouse around him, stepped forward and 
stooped to pick up his stick. 

At that instant he perceived the forty-sous piece which his 
foot had half buried in the ground, and which glistened among 
the pebbles. It was like an electric shock. " What is that? " 
said he, between his teeth* He drew back a step or two, then 
stopped without the power to withdraw his gaze from this 
point which his foot had covered the instant before, as if the 
thing that glistened there in the obscurity had been an open eye 
fixed upon him. 

After a few minutes, he sprang convulsively towards the piece of 
money, seized it, and, rising, looked away over the plain, straining 
his eyes towards all points of the horizon, standing and trembling 
like a frightened deer which is seeking a place of refuge. 

He saw nothing. Night was falling, the plain was cold and 
bare, thick purple mists were rising in the glimmering twilight. 

He said: " Ohl" and began to walk rapidly in the direction 

1 06 Les Miserables 

in which the child had gone. After some thirty steps, he 
stopped, looked about, and saw nothing. 

Then he called with all his might " Petit Gervais ! Petit 

And then he listened. 

There was no answer. 

The country was desolate and gloomy. On all sides was 
space. There was nothing about him but a shadow in which his 
gaze was lost, and a silence in which his voice was lost. 

A biting norther was blowing, which gave a kind of dismal 
life to everything about him. The bushes shook their little 
thin arms with an incredible fury. One would have said that 
they were threatening and pursuing somebody. 

He began to walk again, then quickened his pace to a run, 
and from time to time stopped and called out in that solitude, 
in a most desolate and terrible voice : 

" Petit Gervais ! Petit Gervais ! " 

Surely, if the child had heard him, he would have been 
frightened, and would have hid himself. But doubtless the 
boy was already far away. 

He met a priest on horseback. He went up to him and said : 

" Monsieur cure, have you seen a child go by? " 

" No," said the priest. 

" Petit Gervais was his name? " 

" I have seen nobody." 

He took two five-franc pieces from his bag, and gave them 
to the priest. 

" Monsieur cure, this is for your poor. Monsieur cure, he is 
a little fellow, about ten years old, with a marmot, I think, and 
a hurdygurdy. He went this way. One of these Savoyards, 
you know? " 

" I have not seen him." 

" Petit Gervais? is his village near here? can you tell me? " 

" If it be as you say, my friend, the little fellow is a foreigner. 
They roam about this country. Nobody knows them." 

Jean Valjean hastily took out two more five-franc pieces, and 
gave them to the priest. 

" For your poor," said he. 

Then he added wildly : 

" Monsieur abbe, have me arrested. I am a robber." 

The priest put spurs to his horse, and fled in great fear. 

Jean Valjean began to run again in the direction which he 
had first taken. 

Fantine 107 

He went on in this wise for a considerable distance, looking 
around, calling and shouting, but met nobody else. Two or 
three times he left the path to look at what seemed to be some- 
body lying down or crouching; it was only low bushes or rocks. 
Finally, at a place where three paths met, he stopped. The 
moon had risen. He strained his eyes in the distance, and 
called out once more " Petit Gervais ! Petit Gervais I Petit 
Gervais ! " His cries died away into the mist, without even 
awakening an echo. Again he murmured: " Petit Gervais! " 
but with a feeble, and almost inarticulate voice. That was his 
last effort ; his knees suddenly bent under him, as if an invisible 
power overwhelmed him at a blow, with the weight of his bad 
conscience; he fell exhausted upon a great stone, his hands 
clenched in his hair, and his face on his knees, and exclaimed: 
" What a wretch I am ! " 

Then his heart swelled, and he burst into tears. It was the 
first time he had wept for nineteen years. 

When Jean Valjean left the bishop's house, as we have seen, 
his mood was one that he had never known before. He could 
understand nothing of what was passing within him. He set 
himself stubbornly in opposition to the angelic deeds and the 
gentle words of the old man, " you have promised me to become 
an honest man. I am purchasing your soul, I withdraw it from 
the spirit of perversity, and I give it to God Almighty." This 
came back to him incessantly. To this celestial tenderness, 
he opposed pride, which is the fortress of evil in man. He felt 
dimly that the pardon of this priest was the hardest assault, and 
the most formidable attack which he had yet sustained; that 
his hardness of heart would be complete, if it resisted this kind- 
ness; that if he yielded, he must renounce that hatred with 
which the acts of other men had for so many years filled his 
soul, and in which he found satisfaction; that, this time, he 
must conquer or be conquered, and that the struggle, a gigantic 
and decisive struggle, had begun between his own wickedness, 
and the goodness of this man. 

In view of all these things, he moved like a drunken man. 
While thus walking on with haggard look, had he a distinct per- 
ception of what might be to him the result of his adventure at 

D ? Did he hear those mysterious murmurs which warn 

or entreat the spirit at certain moments of life? Did a voice 
whisper in his ear that he had just passed through the decisive 
hour of his destiny, that there was no longer a middle course 
for him, that if, thereafter, he should not be the best of men, he 

io8 Les Miserables 

would be the worst, that he must now, so to speak, mount 
higher than the bishop, or fall lower than the galley slave ; that, 
if he would become good, he must become an angel; that, if he 
would remain wicked, he must become a monster? 

Here we must again ask those questions, which we have 
already proposed elsewhere: was some confused shadow of all 
this formed in his mind? Certainly, misfortune, we have said, 
draws out the intelligence; it is doubtful, however, if Jean 
Valjean was in a condition to discern all that we here point out. 
If these ideas occurred to him, he but caught a glimpse, he did 
not see ; and the only effect was to throw him into an inexpres- 
sible and distressing confusion. Being just out of that mis- 
shapen and gloomy thing which is called the galleys, the bishop 
had hurt his soul, as a too vivid light would have hurt his eyes 
on coming out of the dark. The future life, the possible life that 
was offered to him thenceforth, all pure and radiant, filled him 
with trembling and anxiety. He no longer knew really where 
he was. Like an owl who should see the sun suddenly rise, the 
convict had been dazzled and blinded by virtue. 

One thing was certain, nor did he himself doubt it, that he 
was no longer the same man, that all was changed in him, that 
it was no longer in his power to prevent the bishop from having 
talked to him and having touched him. 

In this frame of mind, he had met Petit Gervais, and stolen his 
forty sous. Why? He could not have explained it, surely; 
was it the final effect, the final effort of the evil thoughts he had 
brought from the galleys, a remnant of impulse, a result of what 
is called in physics acquired force ? It was that, and it was also 
perhaps even less than that. We will say plainly, it was not he 
who had stolen, it was not the man, it was the beast which, from 
habit and instinct, had stupidly set its foot upon that money, 
while the intellect was struggling in the midst of so many new 
and unknown influences. When the intellect awoke and saw 
this act of the brute, Jean Valjean recoiled in anguish and 
uttered a cry of horror. 

It was a strange phenomenon, possible only in the condition 
in which he then was, but the fact is, that in stealing this money 
from that child, he had done a thing of which he was no longer 

However that may be, this last misdeed had a decisive effect 
upon him; it rushed across the chaos of his intellect and dis- 
sipated it, set the light on one side and the dark clouds on 
the other, and acted upon his soul, in the condition it was in, 

Fantine 1 09 

as certain chemical re-agents act upon a turbid mixture, by 
precipitating one element and producing a clear solution of 
the other. 

At first, even before self-examination and reflection, dis- 
tractedly, like one who seeks to escape, he endeavoured to find 
the boy to give him back his money ; then, when he found that 
that was useless and impossible, he stopped in despair. At the 
very moment when he exclaimed: " What a wretch I am! " he 
saw himself as he was, and was already so far separated from 
himself that it seemed to him that he was only a phantom, and 
that he had there before him, in flesh and bone, with his stick in 
his hand, his blouse on his back, his knapsack filled with stolen 
articles on his shoulders, with his stern and gloomy face, and 
his thoughts full of abominable projects, the hideous galley 
slave, Jean Valjean. 

Excess of misfortune, we have remarked, had made him, in 
some sort, a visionary. This then was like a vision. He 
veritably saw this Jean Valjean, this ominous face, before him. 
He was on the point of asking himself who that man was, and 
he was horror-stricken by it. 

His brain was in one of those violent, and yet frightfully calm, 
conditions where reverie is so profound that it swallows up 
reality. We no longer see the objects that are before us, but 
we see, as if outside of ourselves, the forms that we have in our 

He beheld himself then, so to speak, face to face, and at the 
same time, across that hallucination, he saw, at a mysterious 
distance, a sort of light which he took at first to be a torch. 
Examining more attentively this light which dawned upon his 
conscience, he recognised that it had a human form, and that 
this torch was the bishop. 

His conscience weighed in turn these two men thus placed 
before it, the bishop and Jean Valjean. Anything less than 
the first would have failed to soften the second. By one of 
those singular effects which are peculiar to this kind of ecstasy, as 
his reverie continued, the bishop grew grander and more re- 
splendent in his eyes; Jean Valjean shrank and faded away. 
At one moment he was but a shadow. Suddenly he disappeared. 
The bishop alone remained. 

He filled the whole soul of this wretched man with a magni- 
ficent radiance. 

Jean Valjean wept long. He shed hot tears, he wept bitterly, 

iio Les Miserables 

with more weakness than a woman, with more terror than a 

While he wept, the light grew brighter and brighter in his 
mind an extraordinary light, a light at once transporting and 
terrible. His past life, his first offence, his long expiation, his 
brutal exterior, his hardened interior, his release made glad by so 
many schemes of vengeance, what had happened to him at the 
bishop's, his last action, this theft of forty sous from a child, a 
crime the meaner and the more monstrous that it came after the 
bishop's pardon, all this returned and appeared to him, clearly, 
but in a light that he had never seen before. He beheld his life, 
and it seemed to him horrible; his soul, and it seemed to him 
frightful. There was, however, a softened light upon that life 
and upon that soul. It seemed to him that he was looking upon 
Satan by the light of Paradise. 

How long did he weep thus? What did he do after weeping? 
Where did he go? Nobody ever knew. It is known simply 
that, on that very night, the stage-driver who drove at that time 

on the Grenoble route, and arrived at D about three o'clock 

in the morning, saw, as he passed through the bishop's street. 
a man in the attitude of prayer, kneeling upon the pavement in 
the shadow, before the door of Monseigneur Bienvenu, 


THE YEAR 1817 

THE year 1817 was that which Louis XVIII., with a certain 
royal assumption not devoid of stateliness, styled the twenty- 
second year of his reign. It was the year when M. Bruguiere de 
Sorsum was famous. All the hair-dressers' shops, hoping for 
the return of powder and birds of Paradise, were bedizened with 
azure and fleurs-de-lis. It was the honest time when Count 
Lynch sat every Sunday as churchwarden on the official bench 
at Saint Germain des Pres, in the dress of a peer of France, with 
his red ribbon and long nose, and that majesty of profile peculiar 
to a man who has done a brilliant deed. The brilliant deed 
committed by M. Lynch was that, being mayor of Bordeaux on 
the i2th of March, 1814, he had surrendered the city a little too 
soon to the Duke of Angouleme. Hence his peerage. In 1817 it 
was the fashion to swallow up little boys from four to six years 
old in great morocco caps with ears, strongly resembling the 
chimney-pots of the Esquimaux. The French army was dressed 
in white after the Austrian style; regiments were called legions, 
and wore, instead of numbers, the names of the departments. 
Napoleon was at St Helena, and as England would not give him 
green cloth, had had his old coats turned. In 1817, Pellegrini 
sang; Mademoiselle Bigottini danced; Potier reigned; Odry 
was not yet in existence. Madame Saqui succeeded to Forioso. 
There were Prussians still in France. M. Delalot was a per- 
sonage. Legitimacy had just asserted itself by cutting off the 
fist and then the head of Pleignier, Carbonneau, and Tolleron. 
Prince Talleyrand, the grand chamberlain, and Abbe Louis, the 
designated minister of the finances, looked each other in the 
face, laughing like two augurs ; both had celebrated the mass of 
the Federation in the Champ-de-Mars on i4th of July, 1790; 
Talleyrand had said it as bishop, Louis had served him as deacon. 
In 1817, in the cross-walks of this same Champ-de-Mars, were 
seen huge wooden cylinders, painted blue, with traces of eagles 
and bees, that had lost their gilding, lying in the rain, and rotting 


1 1 2 Les Miserables 

in the grass. These were the columns which, two years before, 
had supported the estrade of the emperor in the Champ-de- 
Mai. They were blackened here and there from the bivouac- 
fires of the Austrians in barracks near the Gros-Caillou. Two 
or three of these columns had disappeared in the fires of these 
bivouacs, and had warmed the huge hands of the kaiserlics. 
The Champ-de-Mai was remarkable from the fact of having been 
held in the month of June, and on the Champ-de-Mars. In the 
year 1817, two things were popular Voltaire-Touquet and 
Chartist snuff-boxes. The latest Parisian sensation was the 
crime of Dautun, who had thrown his brother's head into the 
fountain of the Marche-aux-Fleurs. People were beginning to 
find fault with the minister of the navy for having no news of 
that fated frigate, La Meduse, which was to cover Chaumareix 
with shame, and Gericault with glory. Colonel Selves went to 
Egypt, there to become Soliman-Pacha. The palace of the 
Thermes, Rue de La Harpe, was turned into a cooper's shop. 
On the platform of the octagonal tower of the hotel de Cluny, 
the little board shed was still to be seen, which had served as 
observatory to Messier, the astronomer of the navy under Louis 
XVI. The Duchess of Duras read to three or four friends, in 
her boudoir, furnished in sky-blue satin, the manuscript of 
Ourika. The N's were erased from the Louvre. The bridge of 
Austerlitz abdicated its name, and became the bridge of the 
Jardin-du-Roi, an enigma which disguised at once the bridge of 
Austerlitz and the Jardin-des-Plantes. Louis XVIII., absently 
annotating Horace with his* finger-nail while thinking about 
heroes that had become emperors, and shoemakers that had 
become dauphins, had two cares, Napoleon and Mathurin 
Bruneau. The French Academy gave as a prize theme, The 
happiness which Study procures. M. Bellart was eloquent, 
officially. In his shadow was seen taking root the future 
Attorney-General, de Broe, promised to the sarcasms of Paul 
Louis Courier. There was a counterfeit Chauteaubriand called 
Marchangy, as there was to be later a counterfeit Marchangy 
called d'Arlincourt, Claire d'Albe and Malek Adel were master- 
pieces ; Madame Cottin was declared the first writer of the age. 
The Institute struck from its list the academician, Napoleon 
Bonaparte. A royal ordinance established a naval school at 
Angouleme, for the Duke of Angouleme being Grand Admiral, 
it was evident that the town of Angouleme had by right all the 
qualities of a seaport, without which the monarchical principle 
would have been assailed. The question whether the pictures, 

Fantine 1 1 3 

representing acrobats, which spiced the placards of Franconi, 
and drew together the blackguards of the streets, should be 
tolerated, was agitated in the cabinet councils. M. Paer, the 
author of L'Agnese, an honest man with square jaws and a wart 
on his cheek, directed the small, select concerts of the Mar- 
chioness de Sassenaye, Rue de la Ville-l'Eveque. All the young 
girls sang I'Ermite de Saint Avelle, words by Edmond Geraud. 
The Nain jaune was transformed into the Miroir. The Caf6 
Lemblin stood out for the emperor in opposition to the Caf6 
Valois, which was in favour of the Bourbons. A marriage had 
just been made up with a Sicilian princess for the Duke of Berry, 
who was already in reality regarded with suspicion by Louvel. 
Madame de Stael had been dead a year. Mademoiselle Mars 
was hissed by the body-guards. The great journals were all 
small. The form was limited, but the liberty was large. Lc 
Constitutionnel was constitutional; La Minerve called Chateau- 
briand, Chateaubriant. This excited great laughter among the 
citizens at the expense of the great writer. 

In purchased journals, prostituted journalists insulted the 
outlaws of 1815; David no longer had talent, Arnault no longer 
had ability, Carnot no longer had probity, Soult had never 
gained a victory; it is true that Napoleon no longer had genius. 
Everybody knows that letters sent through the post to an exile 
rarely reach their destination, the police making it a religious 
duty to intercept them. This fact is by no means a new one; 
Descartes complained of it in his banishment. Now, David 
having shown some feeling in a Belgian journal at not receiving 
the letters addressed to him, this seemed ludicrous to the royalist 
papers, who seized the occasion to ridicule the exile. To say, 
regicides instead of voters, enemies instead of allies, Napoleon 
instead of Buonaparte, separated two men more than an abyss. 
All people of common sense agreed that the era of revolutions 
had been for ever closed by King Louis XVIII., surnamed " The 
immortal author of the Charter." At the terreplain of the Pont 
Neuf, the word Redivivus was sculptured on the pedestal which 
awaited the statue of Henri IV. M. Piet at Rue Threse, No. 4, 
was sketching the plan of his cabal to consolidate the monarchy. 
The leaders of the Right said, in grave dilemmas, " We must 
write to Bacol." Messrs. Canuel O'Mahony and Chappedelaine 
made a beginning, not altogether without the approbation of 
Monsieur, of what was afterwards to become the " conspiracy of 
the Bord de 1'Eau." L'Epingle Noire plotted on its side; 
Delaverderie held interviews with Trogoff; M. Decazes, a mind 

114 Les Miserables 

in some degree liberal, prevailed. Chateaubriand, standing 
every morning at his window in the Rue Saint Dominique, No. 
27, in stocking pantaloons and slippers, his grey hair covered 
with a Madras handkerchief, a mirror before his eyes, and a 
complete case of dental instruments open before him, cleaned 
his teeth, which were excellent, while dictating La Monarchic 
selon la Charts to M. Pilorge, his secretary. The critics in 
authority preferred Lafon to Talma. M. de Feletz signed him- 
self A. ; M. Hoffman signed himself Z. Charles Nodier was writing 
Therese Aubert. Divorce was abolished. The lyceums called 
themselves colleges. The students, decorated on the collar 
with a golden fleur-de-lis, pommelled each other over the King 
of Rome. The secret police of the palace denounced to her 
royal highness, Madame, the portrait of the Duke of Orleans, 
which was everywhere to be seen, and which looked better in the 
uniform of colonel-general of hussars than the Duke of Berry in 
the uniform of colonel-general of dragoons a serious matter. 
The city of Paris regilded the dome of the Invalides at its 
expense. Grave citizens asked each other what M. de Trinque- 
lague would do in such or such a case; M. Clausel de Mentals 
differed on sundry points from M. Clausel de Coussergues; M. 
de Salaberry was not satisfied. Comedy-writer Picard, of the 
Academy to which comedy-writer Moliere could not belong, had 
Les deux Philiberts played at the Odeon, on the pediment of 
which, the removal of the letters still permitted the inscription 
to be read distinctly: THEATRE DE L'!MPERATRICE. People 
took sides for or against Cugnet de Montarlot. Fabvier was 
factious; Bavoux was revolutionary. The bookseller Pelicier 
published an edition of Voltaire under the title, Works of 
Voltaire, of the French Academy. " That will attract buyers." 
said the naive publisher. The general opinion was that M. 
Charles Loyson would be the genius of the age; envy was 
beginning to nibble at him, a sign of glory, and the line was 
made on him 

" Mme quand Loyson. vole, on sent qu'il a despattes." 

Cardinal Fesch refusing to resign, Monsieur de Pins, Arch- 
bishop of Amasie, administered the diocese of Lyons. The 
quarrel of the Vallee des Dappes commenced between France 
and Switzerland by a memorial from Captain, afterwards 
General Dufour. Saint-Simon, unknown, was building up his 
sublime dream. There was a celebrated Fourier in the Academy 
of Sciences whom posterity has forgotten, and an obscure 

Fantine 115 

Fourier in some unknown garret whom the future will re- 
member. Lord Byron was beginning to dawn; a note to a 
poem of Millevoye introduced him to France as a certain Lord 
Baron. David d'Angers was endeavouring to knead marble. 
The Abbe Caron spoke with praise, in a small party of Semin- 
arists in the cul-de-sac of the Feuillantines, of an unknown 
priest, Felicite Robert by name, who was afterwards Lamennais. 
A thing which smoked and clacked on the Seine, making the 
noise of a swimming dog, went and came beneath the windows 
of the Tuileries, from the Pont Royal to the Pont Louis XV.; 
it was a piece of mechanism of no great value, a sort of toy, the 
day-dream of a visionary inventor, a Utopia a steamboat. 
The Parisians looked upon the useless thing with indifference. 
Monsieur Vaublanc, wholesale reformer of the Institute by 
royal ordinance and distinguished author of several academicians, 
after having made them, could not make himself one. The 
Faubourg Saint-Germain and the Pavilion Marsan desired 
Monsieur Delaveau for prefect of police, on account of his piety. 
Dupuytren and Recamier quarrelled in the amphitheatre of the 
Ecole de Medicine, and shook their fists in each other's faces, 
over the divinity of Christ. Cuvier, with one eye on the book 
of Genesis and the other on nature, was endeavouring to please 
the bigoted reaction by reconciling fossils with texts and making 
the mastodons support Moses. Monsieur Francois de Neuf- 
chateau, the praiseworthy cultivator of the memory of Par- 
mentier, was making earnest efforts to have pomme de terre 
pronounced -parmentiere, without success. Abbe Gregoire, ex- 
bishop, ex-member of the National Convention, and ex-senator, 
had passed to the condition of the " infamous Gregoire," in 
royalist polemics. The expression which we have just employed, 
" passed to the condition," was denounced as a neologism by 
Monsieur Royer-Collard. The new stone could still be dis- 
tinguished by its whiteness under the third arch of the bridge 
of Jena, which, two years before, had been used to stop up the 
entrance of the mine bored by Bliicher to blow up the bridge. 
Justice summoned to her bar a man who had said aloud, 
on seeing Count d'Artois entering Notre-Dame, "Sapristi! I 
regret the time when I saw Bonaparte and Talma entering the 
Bal-Sauvage, arm in arm." Seditious language. Six months' 

Traitors showed themselves stripped even of hypocrisy; men 
who had gone over to the enemy on the eve of a battle made no 
concealment of their bribes, and shamelessly walked abroad in 

1 1 6 Les Miserables 

daylight in the cynicism of wealth and dignities; deserters of 
Ligny and Quatre-Bras, in the brazenness of their purchased 
shame, exposed the nakedness of their devotion to monarchy, 
forgetting the commonest requirements of public decency. 

Such was the confused mass of events that floated pell-mell 
on the surface of the year 1817, and is now forgotten. History 
neglects almost all these peculiarities, nor can it do otherwise; 
it is under the dominion of infinity. Nevertheless, these details, 
which are wrongly called little there are neither little facts in 
humanity nor little leaves in vegetation are useful. The 
physiognomy of the years makes up the face of the century. 

In this year, 1817, four young Parisians played " a good 


THESE Parisians were, one from Toulouse, another from 
Limoges, the third from Cahors, and the fourth from Mont- 
auban; but they were students, and to say student is to say 
Parisian; to study in Paris is to be born in Paris. 

These young men were remarkable for nothing; everybody 
has seen such persons; the four first comers will serve as samples ; 
neither good nor bad, neither learned nor ignorant, neither 
talented nor stupid; handsome in that charming April of life 
which we call twenty. They were four Oscars ; for at this time, 
Arthurs were not yet in existence. Burn the perfumes of Arabia 
in his honour, exclaims the romance. Oscar approaches I Oscar, 
I am about to see him I Ossian was in fashion, elegance was 
Scandinavian and Caledonian; the pure English did not prevail 
till later, and the first of the Arthurs, Wellington, had but just 
won the victory of Waterloo. 

The first of these Oscars was called F61ix Tholomyes, of 
Toulouse; the second, Listolier, of Cahors; the third, Fameuil, 
of Limoges; and the last, Blacheville, of Montauban. Of course 
each had his mistress. Blacheville loved Favourite, so called, 
because she had been in England; Listolier adored Dahlia, 
who had taken the name of a flower as her nom de guerre ; 
Fameuil idolised Zephine, the diminutive of Josephine, and 
Tholomyes had Fantine, called the Blond, on account of her 
beautiful hair, the colour of the sun. Favourite, Dahlia, 
Zephine, and Fantine were four enchanting girls, perfumed and 

Fantine 117 

sparkling, something of workwomen still, since they had not 
wholly given up the needle, agitated by love-affairs, yet pre- 
serving on their countenances a remnant of the serenity of 
labour, and in their souls that flower of purity, which in woman 
survives the first fall. One of the four was called the child, 
because she was the youngest; and another was called the old 
one the Old One was twenty-three. To conceal nothing, the 
three first were more experienced, more careless, and better 
versed in the ways of the world than Fantine, the Blond, who 
was still in her first illusion. 

Dahlia, Zephine, and Favourite especially, could not say as 
much. There had been already more than one episode in their 
scarcely commenced romance, and the lover called Adolphe in 
the first chapter, was found as Alphonse in the second, and 
Gustave in the third. Poverty and coquetry are fatal coun- 
sellors; the one grumbles, the other flatters, and the beautiful 
daughters of the people have both whispering in their ear, each 
on its side. Their ill-guarded souls listen. Thence their fall, 
and the stones that are cast at them. They are overwhelmed 
with the splendour of all that is immaculate and inaccessible. 
Alas ! was the Jungf rau ever hungry ? 

Favourite, having been in England, was the admiration of 
Zephine and Dahlia. She had had at a very early age a home 
of her own. Her father was a brutal, boasting old professor of 
mathematics, never married, and a rake, despite his years. 
When young, he one day saw the dress of a chambermaid catch 
in the fender, and fell in love through the accident. Favourite 
was the result. Occasionally she met her father, who touched 
his hat to her. One morning, an old woman with a fanatical 
air entered her rooms, and asked, " you do not know me, made- 
moiselle? " "No." " I am your mother." The old woman 
directly opened the buffet, ate and drank her fill, sent for a bed 
that she had, and made herself at home. This mother was a 
devotee and a grumbler ; she never spoke to Favourite, remained 
for hours without uttering a word, breakfasted, dined and supped 
for four, and went down to the porter's lodge to see visitors and 
talk ill of her daughter. 

What had attracted Dahlia to Listolier, to others perhaps, to 
indolence, was her beautiful, rosy finger-nails. How could such 
nails work ! She who will remain virtuous must have no com- 
passion for her hands. As to Zephine, she had conquered 
Fameuil by her rebellious yet caressing little way of saying 
" yes, sir." 

1 1 8 Les Miserables 

The young men were comrades, the young girls were friends. 
Such loves are always accompanied by such friendships. 

Wisdom and philosophy are two things; a proof of which is 
that, with all necessary reservations for these little, irregular 
households, Favourite, Zephine, and Dahlia, were philosophic, 
and Fantine was wise. 

"Wise!" you will say, and Tholomyes? Solomon would 
answer that love is a part of wisdom. We content ourselves with 
saying that the love of Fantine was a first, an only, a faithful 

She was the only one of the four who had been petted by 
but one. 

Fantine was one of those beings which are brought forth from 
the heart of the people. Sprung from the most unfathomable 
depths of social darkness, she bore on her brow the mark of the 

anonymous and unknown. She was born at M on M . 

Who were her parents ? None could tell, she had never known 
either father or mother. She was called Fantine why so? 
because she had never been known by any other name. At the 
time of her birth, the Directory was still in existence. She could 
have no family name, for she had no family ; she could have no 
baptismal name, for then there was no church. She was named 
after the pleasure of the first passer-by who found her, a mere 
infant, straying barefoot in the streets. She received a name 
as she received the water from the clouds on her head when it 
rained. She was called little Fantine. Nobody knew anything 
more of her. Such was the manner in which this human being 
had come into life. At the age of ten, Fantine left the city and 
went to service among the farmers of the suburbs. At fifteen, 
she came to Paris, to " seek her fortune." Fantine was beauti- 
ful and remained pure as long as she could. She was a pretty 
blonde with fine teeth. She had gold and pearls for her dowry; 
but the gold was on her head and the pearls in her mouth. 

She worked to live; then, also to live, for the heart too has 
its hunger, she loved. 

She loved Tholomyes. 

To him, it was an amour; to her a passion. The streets of 
the Latin Quarter, which swarm with students and grisettes, 
saw the beginning of this dream. Fantine, in those labyrinths 
of the hill of the Pantheon, where so many ties are knotted and 
unloosed, long fled from Tholomyes, but in such a way as always 
to meet him again. There is a way of avoiding a person which 
resembles a search. In short, the eclogue took place. 

Famine 1 1 9 

Blacheville, Listolier, and Fameuil formed a sort of group of 
which Tholomye"s was the head. He was the wit of the company. 

Tholomys was an old student of the old style; he was rich, 
having an income of four thousand francs a splendid scandal 
on the Montagne Sainte-Genevieve. He was a good liver, thirty 
years old, and ill preserved. He was wrinkled, his teeth were 
broken, and he was beginning to show signs of baldness, of 
which he said, gaily: " The head at thirty, the knees at forty." 
His digestion was not good, and he had a weeping eye. But 
in proportion as his youth died out, his gaiety increased; he 
replaced his teeth by jests, his hair by joy, his health by irony, 
and his weeping eye was always laughing. He was dilapidated, 
but covered with flowers. His youth, decamping long before its 
time, was beating a retreat in good order, bursting with laughter, 
and displaying no loss of fire. He had had a piece refused at the 
Vaudeville; he made verses now and then on any subject; 
moreover, he doubted everything with an air of superiority a 
great power in the eyes of the weak. So, being bald and 
ironical, he was the chief. Can the word iron be the root from 
which irony is derived? 

One day, Tholomyes took the other three aside, and said to 
them with an oracular gesture : 

" For nearly a year, Fantine, Dahlia, Ze"phine, and Favourite 
have been asking us to give them a surprise ; we have solemnly 
promised them one. They are constantly reminding us of it, 
me especially. Just as the old women at Naples cry to Saint 
January, ' Faccia gialluta, fa o miracolo, yellow face, do your 
miracle,' our pretty ones are always saying : ' Tholomyes, when 
are you going to be delivered of your surprise ? ' At the same 
time our parents are writing for us. Two birds with one stone. 
It seems to me the time has come. Let us talk it over." 

Upon this, Tholomyes lowered his voice, and mysteriously 
articulated something so ludicrous that a prolonged and enthu- 
siastic giggling arose from the four throats at once, and Blache- 
ville exclaimed: " What an idea! " 

An ale-house, filled with smoke, was before them; they 
entered, and the rest of their conference was lost in its shade. 

The result of this mystery was a brilliant pleasure party, 
which took place on the following Sunday, the four young men 
inviting the four young girls. 

I2O Les Miserables 



IT is difficult to picture to one's self, at this day, a country party 
of students and grisettes as it was forty-five years ago. Paris 
has no longer the same environs; the aspect of what we might 
call circum-Parisian life has completely changed in half a 
century; in place of the rude, one-horse chaise, we have now 
the railroad car; in place of the pinnace, we have now the steam- 
boat; we say Fecamp to-day, as we then said Saint Cloud. 
The Paris of 1862 is a city which has France for its suburbs. 

The four couples scrupulously accomplished all the country 
follies then possible. It was in the beginning of the holidays, 
and a warm, clear summer's day. The night before, Favourite, 
the only one who knew how to write, had written to Tholomyes 
in the name of the four : " It is lucky to go out early." For this 
reason, they rose at five in the morning. Then they went to 
Saint Cloud by the coach, looked at the dry cascade and ex- 
claimed: " How beautiful it must be when there is any water ! " 
breakfasted at the Tete Noire, which Castaing had not yet passed, 
amused themselves with a game of rings at the quincunx of the 
great basin, ascended to Diogenes' lantern, played roulette with 
macaroons on the Sevres bridge, gathered bouquets at Puteaux, 
bought reed pipes at Neuilly, ate apple puffs everywhere, and 
were perfectly happy < 

The young girls rattled and chattered like uncaged warblers. 
They were delirious with joy. Now and then they would 
playfully box the ears of the young men. Intoxication of the 
morning of life ! Adorable years ! The wing of the dragon-fly 
trembles 1 Oh, ye, whoever you may be, have you memories 
of the past? Have you walked in the brushwood, thrusting 
aside the branches for the charming head behind you? Have 
you glided laughingly down some slope wet with rain, with the 
woman of your love, who held you back by the hand, exclaiming : 
" Oh, my new boots ! what a condition they are in! " 

Let us hasten to say that that joyous annoyance, a shower, 
was wanting to this good-natured company, although Favourite 
had said, on setting out, with a magisterial and maternal air: 
" The snails are crawling in the paths. A sign of rain, children." 

All four were ravishingly beautiful. A good old classic poet, 
then in renown, a good man who had an Eleanore, the Chevalier 
de Labouisse, who was walking that day under the chestnut trees 

Fantine 1 2 1 

of Saint Cloud, saw them pass about ten o'clock in the morning, 
and exclaimed, thinking of the Graces: "There is one too 
many ! " Favourite, the friend of Blacheville, the Old One oi 
twenty-three, ran forward under the broad green branches, 
leaped across ditches, madly sprang over bushes, and took the 
lead in the gaiety with the verve of a young faun. Zephine and 
Dahlia, whom chance had endowed with a kind of beauty that 
was heightened and perfected by contrast, kept together through 
the instinct of coquetry still more than through friendship, and, 
leaning on each other, affected English attitudes ; the first keep- 
sakes had just appeared, melancholy was in vogue for women, 
as Byronism was afterwards for men, and the locks of the tender 
sex were beginning to fall dishevelled. Zephine and Dahlia 
wore their hair in rolls. Listolier and Fameuil, engaged in a 
discussion on their professors, explained to Fantine the differ- 
ence between M. Delvincourt and M. Blondeau. 

Blacheville seemed to have been created expressly to carry 
Favourite's dead-leaf coloured shawl upon his arm on Sunday. 

Tholomyes followed, ruling, presiding over the group. He 
was excessively gay, but one felt the governing power in him. 
There was dictatorship in his joviality; his principal adornment 
was a pair of nankeen pantaloons, cut in the elephant-leg 
fashion, with under-stockings of copper-coloured braid ; he had 
a huge ratten, worth two hundred francs, in his hand, and as he 
denied himself nothing, a strange thing called cigar in his mouth. 
Nothing being sacred to him, he was smoking. 

" This Tholomyes is astonishing," said the others, with venera- 
tion. " What pantaloons ! what energy ! " 

As to Fantine, she was joy itself. Her splendid teeth had 
evidently been endowed by God with one function that of 
laughing. She carried in her hand rather than on her head, her 
little hat of sewed straw, with long, white strings. Her thick 
blond tresses, inclined to wave, and easily escaping from their 
confinement, obliging her to fasten them continually, seemed 
designed for the flight of Galatea under the willows. Her rosy 
lips babbled with enchantment. The corners of her mouth, 
turned up voluptuously like the antique masks of Erigone, 
seemed to encourage audacity ; but her long, shadowy eyelashes 
were cast discreetly down towards the lower part of her face as 
if to check its festive tendencies. Her whole toilette was inde- 
scribably harmonious and enchanting. She wore a dress of 
mauve barege, little reddish-brown buskins, the strings of which 
were crossed over her fine, white, open-worked stockings, and 

I 22 Les Miserables 

that species of spencer, invented at Marseilles, the name of 
which, canezou, a corruption of the words quinze aout in the 
Canebiere dialect, signifies fine weather, warmth, and noon. 
The three others, less timid as we have said, wore low-necked 
dresses, which in summer, beneath bonnets covered with 
flowers, are full of grace and allurement; but by the side of this 
daring toilette, the canezou of the blond Fantine, with its trans- 
parencies, indiscretions, and concealments, at once hiding and 
disclosing, seemed a provoking godsend of decency; and the 
famous court of love, presided over by the Viscountess de Cette, 
with the sea-green eyes, would probably have given the prize 
for coquetry to this canezou, which had entered the lists for 
that of modesty. The simplest is sometimes the wisest. So 
things go. 

A brilliant face, delicate profile, eyes of a deep blue, heavy 
eyelashes, small, arching feet, the wrists and ankles neatly 
encased, the white skin showing here and there the azure 
arborescence of the veins; a cheek small and fresh, a neck 
robust as that of Egean Juno, the nape firm and supple, shoulders 
modelled as if by Coustou, with a voluptuous dimple in the 
centre, just visible through the muslin ; a gaiety tempered with 
reverie, sculptured and exquisite such was Fantine, and you 
divined beneath this dress and these ribbons a statue, and in 
this statue a soul. 

Fantine was beautiful, without being too conscious of it. 
Those rare dreamers, the mysterious priests of the beautiful, 
who silently compare all things with perfection, would have 
had a dim vision in this little work-woman, through the trans- 
parency of Parisian grace, of the ancient sacred Euphony. This 
daughter of obscurity had race. She possessed both types of 
beauty style and rhythm. Style is the force of the ideal, 
rhythm is its movement. 

We have said that Fantine was joy; Fantine also was modesty. 

For an observer who had studied her attentively would have 
found through all this intoxication of age, of season, and of love, 
an unconquerable expression of reserve and modesty. She was 
somewhat restrained. This chaste restraint is the shade which 
separates Psyche from Venus. Fantine had the long, white, 
slender fingers of the vestals that stir the ashes of the sacred fire 
with a golden rod. Although she would have refused nothing 
to Tholomyes, as might be seen but too well, her face, in repose, 
was in the highest degree maidenly; a kind of serious and almost 
austere dignity suddenly possessed it at times, and nothing 

Fantinc 123 

could be more strange or disquieting than to see gaiety vanish 
there so quickly, and reflection instantly succeed to delight. 
This sudden seriousness, sometimes strangely marked, resembled 
the disdain of a goddess. Her forehead, nose, and chin pre- 
sented that equilibrium of line, quite distinct from the equili- 
brium of proportion, which produces harmony of features; in 
the characteristic interval which separates the base of the nose 
from the upper lip, she had that almost imperceptible but 
charming fold, the mysterious sign of chastity, which enamoured 
Barbarossa with a Diana, found in the excavations of Iconium. 
Love is a fault; be it so. Fantine was innocence floating upon 
the surface of this fault. 



THAT day was sunshine from one end to the other. All nature 
seemed to be out on a holiday. The parterres of Saint Cloud 
were balmy with perfumes; the breeze from the Seine gently 
waved the leaves; the boughs were gesticulating in the wind; 
the bees were pillaging the jessamine; a whole crew of butter- 
flies had settled in the milfoil, clover, and wild oats. The 
august park of the King of France was invaded by a swarm of 
vagabonds, the birds. 

The four joyous couples shone resplendently in concert with 
the sunshine, the flowers, the fields, and the trees. 

And in this paradisaical community, speaking, singing, 
running, dancing, chasing butterflies, gathering bindweed, 
wetting their open-worked stocking in the high grass, fresh, 
wild, but not wicked, stealing kisses from each other indis- 
criminately now and then, all except Fantine, who was shut up 
in her vague, dreary, severe resistance, and who was in love. 
" You always have the air of being out of sorts," said Favourite 
to her. 

These are true pleasures. These passages in the lives of happy 
couples are a profound appeal to life and nature, and call forth 
endearment and light from everything. There was once upon 
a time a fairy, who created meadows and trees expressly for 
lovers. Hence comes that eternal school among the groves for 
lovers, which is always opening, and which will last so long as 
there are thickets and pupils. Hence comes the popularity of 

124 Les Miserables 

spring among thinkers. The patrician and the knife-grinder, the 
duke and peer, and the peasant, the men of the court, and the 
men of the town, as was said in olden times, all are subjects of 
this fairy. They laugh, they seek each other, the air seems 
filled with a new brightness ; what a transfiguration is it to love ! 
Notary clerks are gods. And the little shrieks, the pursuits 
among the grass, the waists encircled by stealth, that jargon 
which is melody, that adoration which breaks forth in a syllable, 
those cherries snatched from one pair of lips by another all 
kindle up, and become transformed into celestial glories. 
Beautiful girls lavish their charms with sweet prodigality. 
We fancy that it will never end. Philosophers, poets, painters 
behold these ecstasies and know not what to make of them. 
So dazzling are they. The departure for Cythera! exclaims 
Watteau ; Lancret, the painter of the commonalty, contemplates 
his bourgeois soaring in the sky; Diderot stretches out his arms 
to all these loves, and d'Urfe associates them with the Druids. 

After breakfast, the four couples went to see, in what was then 
called the king's square, a plant newly arrived from the Indies, 
the name of which escapes us at present, and which at this time 
was attracting all Paris to Saint Cloud: it was a strange and 
beautiful shrub with a long stalk, the innumerable branches of 
which, fine as threads, tangled, and leafless, were covered with 
millions of little, white blossoms, which gave it the appearance of 
flowing hair, powdered with flowers. There was always a crowd 
admiring it. 

When they had viewed the shrub, Tholomyes exclaimed, " I 
propose donkeys," and making a bargain with a donkey-driver, 
they returned through Vanvres and Issy. At Issy, they had 
an adventure. The park, Bien-National, owned at this time by 
the commissary Bourguin, was by sheer good luck open. They 
passed through the grating, visited the mannikin anchorite in 
his grotto, and tried the little, mysterious effects of the famous 
cabinet of mirrors a wanton trap, worthy of a satyr become 
a millionaire, or Turcaret metamorphosed into Priapus. They 
swung stoutly in the great swing, attached to the two chestnut 
trees, celebrated by the Abb6 de Bernis. While swinging the 
girls, one after the other, and making folds of flying crinoline 
that Greuze would have found worth his study, the Toulousian 
Tholomyes, who was something of a Spaniard Toulouse is 
cousin to Tolosa sang in a melancholy key, the old gallega 
song, probably inspired by some beautiful damsel swinging in 
the air between two trees. 

Fantine 125 

Soy de Badajoz. 
Amor me llama. 
Toda mi alma 
Es en mi ojos 
Porque ensenas 
A tus piernas. 

Fantine alone refused to swing. 

" I do not like this sort of airs," murmured Favourite, rather 

They left the donkeys for a new pleasure, crossed the Seine in 
a boat, and walked from Passy to the Barriere de 1'Etoile. They 
had been on their feet, it will be remembered, since five in the 
morning, but bah 1 there is no weariness on Sunday, said 
Favourite; on Sunday fatigue has a holiday. Towards three 
o'clock, the four couples, wild with happiness, were running down 
to the Russian mountains, a singular edifice which then occupied 
the heights of Beaujon, and the serpentine line of which might 
have been perceived above the trees of the Champs Elysdes. 

From time to time Favourite exclaimed: 

" But the surprise? I want the surprise." 

" Be patient," answered Tholomyes, 


THE Russian mountains exhausted, they thought of dinner, and 
the happy eight, a little weary at last, stranded on Bombarda's, 
a branch establishment, set up in the Champs Elysees by the 
celebrated restaurateur, Bombarda, whose sign was then seen 
on the Rue de Rivoli, near the Delorme arcade. 

A large but plain apartment, with an alcove containing a bed 
at the bottom (the place was so full on Sunday that it was neces- 
sary to take up with this lodging-room); two windows from 
which they could see, through the elms, the quai and the river; 
a magnificent August sunbeam glancing over the windows; two 
tables; one loaded with a triumphant mountain of bouquets, 
interspersed with hats and bonnets, while at the other, the four 
couples were gathered round a joyous pile of plates, napkins, 
glasses, and bottles; jugs of beer and flasks of wine; little 
order on the table, and some disorder under it. 

Says Moliere: 

Ils faisaient sous la table, 
Un bruit, un trique-trac epouvaritable. 1 

1 And under the table they beat 
A fearful tattoo with their feet. 

126 Les Miserables 

Here was where the pastoral, commenced at five o'clock in the 
morning, was to be found at half-past four in the afternoon. 
The sun was declining, and their appetite with it. 

The Champs Elysees, full of sunshine and people, was nothing 
but glare and dust, the two elements of glory. The horses of 
Marly, those neighing marbles, were curveting in a golden cloud. 
Carriages were coming and going. A magnificent squadron of 
body-guards, with the trumpet at their head, were coming down 
the avenue of Neuilly; the white flag, faintly tinged with red 
by the setting sun, was floating over the dome of the Tuileries. 
The Place de la Concorde, then become Place Louis XV. again, 
was overflowing with pleased promenaders. Many wore the 
silver fleur-de-lis suspended from the watered white ribbon 
which, in 1817, had not wholly disappeared from the button- 
holes. Here and there in the midst of groups of applauding 
spectators, circles of little girls gave to the winds a Bourbon 
doggerel rhyme, intended to overwhelm the Hundred Days, 
and the chorus of which ran : 

Rendez-nous notre pere de Gand, 
Rendez-nous notre pere. 1 

Crowds of the inhabitants of the faubourgs in their Sunday 
clothes, sometimes even decked with fleurs-de-lis like the 
citizens, were scattered over the great square and the square 
Marigny, playing games and going around on wooden horses; 
others were drinking; a few, printer apprentices, had on paper 
caps; their laughter resounded through the air. Everything 
was radiant. It was a time of undoubted peace and profound 
royal security ; it was the time when a private and special report 
of Prefect of Police Angles to the king on the faubourgs of Paris, 
ended with these lines : " Everything considered, sire, there is 
nothing to fear from these people. They are as careless and 
indolent as cats. The lower people of the provinces are restless, 
those of Paris are not so. They are all small men, sire, and it 
would take two of them, one upon the other, to make one of 
your grenadiers. There is nothing at all to fear on the side of 
the populace of the capital. It is remarkable that this part of 
the population has also decreased in stature during the last fifty 
years; and the people of the faubourgs of Paris are smaller than 
before the Revolution. They are not dangerous. In short, 
they are good canaille." 

1 Give us back our Pirt de Gand. 
Give us back our sire. 

Fantine 127 

That a cat may become changed into a lion, prefects of police 
do not believe possible ; nevertheless, it may be, and this is the 
miracle of the people of Paris. Besides, the cat, so despised 
by the Count Angles, had the esteem of the republics of anti- 
quity; it was the incarnation of liberty in their sight, and, as if 
to serve as a pendant to the wingless Minerva of the Piraeus, there 
was, in the public square at Corinth, the bronze colossus of a 
cat. The simple police of the Restoration looked too hopefully 
on the people of Paris. They are by no means such good 
canaille as is believed. The Parisian is among Frenchmen 
what the Athenian was among Greeks. Nobody sleeps better 
than he, nobody is more frankly frivolous and idle than he, 
nobody seems to forget things more easily than he; but do not 
trust him, notwithstanding; he is apt at all sorts of nonchalance, 
but when there is glory to be gained, he is wonderful in every 
species of fury. Give him a pike, and he will play the tenth of 
August; give him a musket, and you shall have an Austerlitz. 
He is the support of Napoleon, and the resource of Danton. 
Is France in question? he enlists; is liberty in question? he 
tears up the pavement. Beware! his hair rising with rage is 
epic; his blouse drapes itself into a chlamys about him. Take 
care! At the first corner, Grene"tat will make a Caudine Forks. 
When the tocsin sounds, this dweller in the faubourgs- will grow ; 
this little man will arise, his look will be terrible, his breath will 
become a tempest, and a blast will go forth from his poor, frail 
breast that might shake the wrinkles out of the Alps. Thanks 
to the men of the Paris foubourgs, the Revolution infused into 
armies, conquers Europe. He sings, it is his joy. Proportion 
his song to his nature, and you shall see ! So long as he had the 
Carmagnole merely for his chorus, he overthrew only Louis 
XVI.; let him sing the Marseillaise, and he will deliver the 

Writing this note in the margin of the Angles report, we will 
return to our four couples. The dinner, as we have said, was 



TABLE talk and lovers' talk equally elude the grasp; lovers' 
talk is clouds, table talk is smoke. 

Fameuil and Dahlia hummed airs; Tholomyes drank, 
Zphine laughed, Fantine smiled. Listolier blew a wooden 

128 Les Miserables 

trumpet that he had bought at Saint Cloud. Favourite looked 
tenderly at Blacheville, and said: 
" Blacheville, I adore you." 
This brought forth a question from Blacheville : 
" What would you do, Favourite, if I should leave you? " 
"Me!" cried Favourite. "Oh! do not say that, even in 
sport ! If you should leave me, I would run after you, I would 
scratch you, I would pull your hair, I would throw water on you, 
I would have you arrested." 

Blacheville smiled with the effeminate foppery of a man whose 
self-love is tickled. Favourite continued : 

" Yes ! I would cry watch 1 No 1 I would scream, for 
example: rascal! " 

Blacheville, in ecstasy, leaned back in his chair, and closed 
both eyes with a satisfied air. 

Dahlia, still eating, whispered to Favourite in the hubbub: 
" Are you really so fond of your Blacheville, then? " 
" I detest him," answered Favourite, in the same tone, taking 
up her fork. " He is stingy; I am in love with the little fellow 
over the way from where I live. He is a nice young man; do 
you know him? Anybody can see that he was born to be an 
actor ! I love actors. As soon as he comes into the house, his 
mother cries out: 'Oh, dear! my peace is all gone. There, 
he is going to hallo ! You will split my head; ' just because he 
goes into the garret among the rats, into the dark corners, as 
high as he can go, and sings and declaims and how do I know 
that they can hear him below! He gets twenty sous a day 
already by writing for a pettifogger. He is the son of an old 
chorister of Saint- Jacques du Haut-Pas! Oh, he is a nice 
young man ! He is so fond of me that he said one day, when he 
saw me making dough for pancakes : ' Mamselle, make your 
gloves into fritters and I will eat them.' Nobody but artists 
can say things like these; I am on the high road to go crazy 
about this little fellow. It is all the same, I tell Blacheville 
that I adore him. How I lie ! Oh, how I lie 1 " 
Favourite paused, then continued : 

" Dahlia, you see I am melancholy. It has done nothing but 
rain all summer; the wind makes me nervous and freckles me. 
Blacheville is very mean; there are hardly any green peas in the 
market yet, people care for nothing but eating; I have the 
spleen, as the English say; butter is so dearl and then, just 
think of it it is horrible ! We are dining in a room with a bed 
in itt I am disgusted with life." 

Fantine 129 



MEANTIME, while some were singing, the rest were all noisily 
talking at the same time. There was a perfect uproar. 
Tholomyes interfered. 

" Do not talk at random, nor too fast! " exclaimed he; " we 
must take time for reflection, if we would be brilliant. Too 
much improvisation leaves the mind stupidly void. Running 
beer gathers no foam. Gentlemen, no haste. Mingle dignity 
with festivity, eat with deliberation, feast slowly. Take your 
time. See the spring; if it hastens forward, it is ruined; that 
is, frozen. Excess of zeal kills peach and apricot trees. Excess' 
of zeal kills the grace and joy of good dinners. No zeal, gentle- 
men! Grimod de la Reyniere is of Talleyrand's opinion." 

" Tholomyes, let us alone," said Blacheville. 

" Down with the tyrant! " cried Fameuil. 

" Bombarda, Bombance, and Bamboche ! " exclaimed 

" Sunday still exists," resumed Listolier. 

" We are sober," added Fameuil. 

" Tholomyes," said Blacheville, " behold my calmness (man 

" You are its marquis," replied Tholomyes. 

This indifferent play on words had the effect of a stons 
thrown into a pool. The Marquis de Montcalm was a cele- 
brated royalist of the time. All the frogs were silent. 

" My friends! " exclaimed Tholomyes, in the tone of a man 
resuming his sway. " Collect yourselves. This pun, though 
it falls from heaven, should not be welcomed with too much 
wonder. Everything that falls in this wise is not necessarily 
worthy of enthusiasm and respect. The pun is the dropping 
of the soaring spirit. The jest falls, it matters not where. And 
the spirit, after freeing itself from the folly, plunges into the 
clouds. A white spot settling upon a rock does not prevent 
the condor from hovering above. Far be it from me to insult 
the pun! I honour it in proportion to its merits no more. 
The most august, most sublime, and most charming in humanity 
and perhaps out of humanity, have made plays on words. 
Jesus Christ made a pun on St. Peter, Moses on Isaac, ^Eschylus 
on Polynices, Cleopatra on Octavius. And mark, that this 
pun of Cleopatra preceded the battle of Actium, and that, with- 

I E 

130 Les Miserables 

out it, no one would have remembered the city of Toryne, a 
Greek name signifying dipper. This conceded, I return to my 
exhortation. My brethren, I repeat, no zeal, no noise, no excess, 
even in witticisms, mirth, gaiety and plays on words. Listen 
to me; have the prudence of Amphiaraus, and the boldness of 
Csesar. There must be a limit, even to rebuses; Est modus in 
rebus. There must be a limit even to dinners. You like apple- 
puffs, ladies; do not abuse them. There must be, even in puffs, 
good sense and art. Gluttony punishes the glutton. Gula 
punishes Gulax. Indigestion is charged by God with enforcing 
morality on the stomach. And remember this: each of our 
passions, even love, has a stomach that must not be overloaded. 
We must in everything write the word finis in time; we must 
restrain ourselves, when it becomes urgent; we must draw the 
bolt on the appetite, play a fantasia on the violin, then break 
the strings with our own hand. 

" The wise man is he who knows when and how to stop. Have 
some confidence in me. Because I have studied law a little, as 
my examinations prove, because I know the difference between 
the question mue and the question pendante, because I have 
written a Latin thesis on the method of torture in Rome at 
the time when Munatius Demens was quaestor of the Parricide; 
because I am about to become doctor, as it seems, it does not 
follow necessarily that I am a fool. I recommend to you 
moderation in all your desires. As sure as my name is Felix 
Tholomyes, I speak wisely. Happy is he, v/ho, when the hour 
comes, takes a heroic resolve, and abdicates like Sylla or 

Favourite listened with profound attention. " Felix! " said 
she, " what a pretty word. I like this name. It is Latin. It 
means prosperous." 

Tholomyes continued: 

" Quiriies, gentlemen, cabaileros, mes amis, would you feel no 
passion, dispense with the nuptial couch and set love at defiance ? 
Nothing is easier. Here is the recipe : lemonade, over exercise, 
hard labour; tire yourselves out, draw logs, do not sleep, keep 
watch; gorge yourselves with nitrous drinks and ptisans of 
water-lilies; drink emulsions of poppies and agnuscastus; 
enliven this with a rigid diet, starve yourselves, and add cold 
baths, girdles of herbs, the application of a leaden plate, lotions 
of solutions of lead and fomentations with vinegar and water." 

" I prefer a woman," said Listolier. 

"Woman!" resumed Tholomyes, "distrust the sex. Un- 

Fantine 131 

happy is he who surrenders himself to the changing heart of 
woman! Woman is perfidious and tortuous. She detests the 
serpent through rivalry of trade. The serpent is the shop 
across the way." 

" Tholomyes," cried Blacheville, " you are drunk," 

" The deuce I am ! " said Tholomyes. 

" Then be gay," resumed Blacheville. 

" I agree/' replied Tholomyes. 

Then, filling his glass, he arose. 

" Honour to wine ! Nunc te, Bacche, canam. Pardon, ladies, 
that is Spanish. And here is the proof, senoras ; like wine- 
measure, like people. The arroba of Castile contains sixteen 
litres, the cantaro of Alicante twelve, the almuda of the Canaries 
twenty-five, the cuartin of the Baleares twenty-six, and the 
boot of Czar Peter thirty. Long live the czar, who was great, 
and long live his boot, which was still greater ! Ladies, a friendly 
counsel ! deceive your neighbours, if it seems good to you. The 
characteristic of love is to rove. Love was not made to cower 
and crouch like an English housemaid whose knees are callused 
with scrubbing. Gentle love was made but to rove gaily! It 
has been said to err is human; I say, to err is loving. Ladies, I 
idolise you all. Zephine, or Josephine, with face more than 
wrinkled, you would be charming if you were not cross. Yours 
is like a beautiful face, upon which some one has sat down by 
mistake. As to Favourite, oh, nymphs and muses, one day, 
as Blacheville was crossing the Rue Guerin-Boisseau, he saw 
a beautiful girl with white, well-gartered stockings, who was 
showing them. The prologue pleased him, and Blacheville 
loved. She whom he loved was Favourite. Oh, Favourite! 
Thou hast Ionian lips. There was a Greek painter, Euphorion, 
who was surnamed painter of lips. This Greek alone would 
have been worthy to paint thy mouth. Listen! before thee, 
there was no creature worthy the name. Thou wert made to 
receive the apple like Venus, or to eat it like Eve. Beauty 
begins with thee. I have spoken of Eve; she was of thy 
creation. Thou deservest the patent for the invention of beauti- 
ful women. Oh, Favourite, I cease to thou you, for I pass from 
poetry to prose. You spoke just now of my name. It moved 
me; but, whatever we do, let us not trust to names, they may 
be deceitful. I am called Felix, I am not happy. Words are 
deceivers. Do not blindly accept the indications which they 
give. It would be a mistake to write to Liege for corks or to 
Pau for gloves. Miss Dahlia, in your place, I should call myself 

132 Les Miserables 

Rose. The flower should have fragrance, and woman should 
have wit. I say nothing of Fantine, she is visionary, dreamy, 
pensive, sensitive; she is a phantom with the form of a nymph, 
and the modesty of a nun, who has strayed into the life of a 
grisette, but who takes refuge in illusions, and who sings, and 
prays, and gazes at the sky without knowing clearly what she 
sees nor what she does, and who, with eyes fixed on heaven, 
wanders in a garden among more birds than exist there. Oh, 
Fantine, know this: I, Tholomyes, am an illusion but she 
does not even hear me the fair daughter of chimeras ! Never- 
theless, everything on her is freshness, gentleness, youth, soft, 
matinal clearness. Oh, Fantine, worthy to be called Marguerite 
or Pearl, you are a jewel of the purest water. Ladies, a second 
counsel, do not marry; marriage is a graft; it may take well 
or ill. Shun the risk. But what do I say? I am wasting my 
words. Women are incurable on the subject of weddings, and 
all that we wise men can say will not hinder vestmakers and 
gaiter-binders from dreaming about husbands loaded with 
diamonds. Well, be it so; but, beauties, remember this: you 
eat too much sugar. You have but one fault, oh, women 1 it 
is that of nibbling sugar. Oh, consuming sex, the pretty, 
little white teeth adore sugar. Now, listen attentively I Sugar 
is a salt. Every salt is desiccating. Sugar is the most desiccating 
of all salts. It sucks up the liquids from the blood through the 
veins; thence comes the coagulation, then the solidification of 
the blood; thence tubercles in the lungs; thence death. And 
this is why diabetes borders on consumption. Crunch no sugar, 
therefore, and you shall live ! I turn towards the men : gentle- 
men, make conquests. Rob each other without remorse of 
your beloved. Chassez and cross over. There are no friends 
in love. Wherever there is a pretty woman, hostility is open. 
No quarter; war to the knife ! A pretty woman is a casus belli ; 
a pretty woman is a ftagrans delictum. All the invasions of 
history have been determined by petticoats. Woman is the 
right of man. Romulus carried off the Sabine women ; William 
carried off the Saxon women; Caesar carried off the Roman 
women. The man who is not loved hovers like a vulture over 
the sweetheart of others; and for my part, to all unfortunate 
widowers, I issue the sublime proclamation of Bonaparte to 
the army of Italy, " Soldiers, you lack for everything. The 
enemy has everything." 

Tholomyes checked himself. 

" Take breath, Tholomyes," said Blacheville, 

Fantine 133 

At the same time, Blacheville, aided by Listolier and Fameuil, 
with an air of lamentation hummed one of those workshop songs, 
made up of the first words that came, rhyming richly and not 
at all, void of sense as the movement of the trees and the sound 
of the winds, and which are borne from the smoke of the pipes, 
and dissipate and take flight with it. This is the couplet by 
which the group replied to the harangue of Tholomyes : 

Les peres dindons donnerent 
De 1'argent a un agent 
Pour que mons Clermont-Tonnerre 
Fiat fait pape 4 la Saint- Jean; 
Mais Clermont ne put pas etre 
Fait pape, n'etant pas pretre; 
Alors leur agent rageant 
Leur rapporta leur argent. 

This was not likely to calm the inspiration of Tholomyes; he 
emptied his glass, filled it, and again began : 

" Down with wisdom! forget all that I have said. Let us 
be neither prudes, nor prudent, nor prud'hommes ! I drink to 
jollity; let us be jolly. Let us finish our course of study by 
folly and prating. Indigestion and the Digest. Let Justinian 
be the male, and festivity the female. There is joy in the 
abysses. Behold, oh, creation ! The world is a huge diamond ! 
I am happy. The birds are marvellous. What a festival 
everywhere ! The nightingale is an Elleviou gratis. Summer, 
I salute thee. Oh, Luxembourg! Oh, Georgics of the Rue 
Madame, and the Alice de 1'Observatoire ! Oh, entranced 
dreamers! The pampas of America would delight me, if I 
had not the arcades of the Odeon. My soul goes out towards 
virgin forests and savannahs. Everything is beautiful; the 
flies hum in the sunbeams. The humming-birds whizz in the 
sunshine. Kiss me, Fantine ! " 

And, by mistake, he kissed Favourite. 



" THE dinners are better at Edon's than at Bombarda's," 
exclaimed Zdphine. 

" I like Bombarda better than Edon," said Blacheville. 
" There is more luxury. It is more Asiatic. See the lower 
hall. There are mirrors (glaces) on the walls." 

" I prefer ices (glaces) on my plate," said Favourite. 

Blacheville persisted. 

134 Les Miserables 

" Look at the knives. The handles are silver at Bcmbarda's, 
and bone at Edon's. Now, silver is more precious than bone.' : 

" Except when it is on the chin/' observed Tholomyes. 

He looked out at this moment at the dome of the Invalides, 
which was visible from Bombarda's windows. 

There was a pause. 

" Tholomyes," cried Fameuil, " Listolier and I have just had 
a discussion." 

" A discussion is good/' replied Tholomyes, " a quarrel is 

" We were discussing philosophy." 

" I have no objection." 

" Which do you prefer, Descartes or Spinoza? " 

" Desaugiers," said Tholomyes. 

This decision rendered, he drank, and resumed: 

" I consent to live. All is not over on earth, since we can yet 
reason falsely. I render thanks for this to the immortal gods. 
We lie, but we laugh. We affirm, but we doubt. The unex- 
pected shoots forth from a syllogism. It is fine. There are 
men still on earth who know how to open and shut pleasantly 
the surprise boxes of paradox. Know, ladies, that this wine 
you are drinking so calmly, is Madeira from the vineyard of 
Coural das Frerras, which is three hundred and seventeen 
fathoms above the level of the sea. Attention while you drink ! 
three hundred and seventeen fathoms ! and M. Bombarda, this 
magnificent restaurateur, gives you these three hundred and 
seventeen fathoms for four francs, fifty centimes." 

Fameuil interrupted again. 

" Tholomyes, your opinions are law. Who is your favourite 

" B er " 

" Quin? " 

"No. Choux." 

And Tholomyes continued. 

"Honour to Bombarda! he would equal Munophis of 
Elephanta if he could procure me an almee and Thygelion of 
Chaeronea if he could bring me a hetaira ! for, oh, ladies, there 
were Bombardas in Greece and Egypt; this Apuleius teaches 
us. Alas! always the same thing and nothing new. Nothing 
more unpublished in the creation of the Creator 1 Nil sub sola 
novum, says Solomon; amor omnibus idem, says Virgil; and 
Carabine mounts with Carabin in the galliot at Saint Cloud, 
as Aspasia embarked with Pericles on the fleet of Samos. A 

Fantine 135 

last word. Do you know who this Aspasia was, ladies? 
Although she lived in a time when women had not yet a soul, 
she was a soul ; a soul of a rose and purple shade, more glowing 
than fire, fresher than the dawn. Aspasia was a being who 
touched the two extremes of woman, the prostitute goddess* 
She was Socrates, plus Manon Lescaut. Aspasia was created 
in case Prometheus might need a wanton." 

Tholomyes, now that he was started would have been stopped 
with difficulty, had not a horse fallen down at this moment on 
the quai. The shock stopped short both the cart and the orator. 
It was an old, meagre mare, worthy of the knacker, harnessed 
to a very heavy cart. On reaching Bombarda's, the beast, 
worn and exhausted, had refused to go further. This incident 
attracted a crowd. Scarcely had the carman, swearing and 
indignant, had time to utter with fitting energy the decisive 
word, " matin I " backed by a terrible stroke of the whip, 
when the hack fell, to rise no more. At the hubbub of the 
passers-by, the merry auditors of Tholomyes turned their heads, 
and Tholomyes profited by it to close his address by this 
melancholy strophe: 

Elle 6tait de ce monde oil coucous et carrosses 

Ont le meme destin; 
Et, rosse, elle a vdgu ce que vivent les rosses, 

L'espace d'un matin! 

" Poor horse ! " sighed Fantine. 

Dahlia exclaimed: 

" Here is Fantine pitying horses 1 Was there ever anything 
so absurd? " 

At this moment, Favourite, crossing her arms and turning 
round her head, looked fixedly at Tholomeys and said : 

"Come! the surprise ?" 

" Precisely. The moment has come," replied Tholomyes. 
" Gentlemen, the hour has come for surprising these ladies. 
Ladies, wait for us a moment." 

" It begins with a kiss," said Blacheville. 

" On the forehead," added Tholomyes. 

Each one gravely placed a kiss on the forehead of his mistress j 
after which they directed their steps towards the door, all four 
in file, laying their fingers on their lips. 

Favourite clapped her hands as they went out. 

" It is amusing already," said she. 

" Do not be too long," murmured Fantine. " We are waiting 
for you." 

i 36 Les Miserables 



THE girls, left alone, leaned their elbows on the window sills 
in couples, and chattered together, bending their heads and 
speaking from one window to the other. 

They saw the young men go out of Bombarda's, arm in 
arm ; they turned round, made signals to them laughingly, then 
disappeared in the dusty Sunday crowd which takes possession 
of the Champs-Elysees once a week. 

" Do not be long ! " cried Fantine. 

" What are they going to bring us? " said Zephine. 

" Surely something pretty," said Dahlia. 

" I hope it will be gold," resumed Favourite. 

They were soon distracted by the stir on the water's edge, 
which they distinguished through the branches of the tall trees, 
and which diverted them greatly. It was the hour for the 
departure of the mails and diligences. Almost all the stage- 
coaches to the south and west, passed at that time by the 
Champs-Elyse'es. The greater part followed the quai and went 
out through the Barriere Passy. Every minute some huge 
vehicle, painted yellow and black, heavily loaded, noisily 
harnessed, distorted with mails, awnings, and valises, full of 
heads that were constantly disappearing, grinding the curb- 
stones, turning the pavements into flints, rushed through the 
crowd, throwing out sparks like a forge, with dust for smoke, 
and an air of fury. This hubbub delighted the young girls. 
Favourite exclaimed: 

" What an uproar; one would say that heaps of chains were 
taking flight." 

It so happened that one of these vehicles which could be 
distinguished with difficulty through the obscurity of the elms, 
stopped for a moment, then set out again on a gallop. This 
surprised Fantine. 

" It is strange," said she. " I thought the diligences never 

Favourite shrugged her shoulders: 

" This Fantine is surprising; I look at her with curiosity. 
She wonders at the most simple things. Suppose that I am 
a traveller, and say to the diligence; ' I am going on; you can 
take me up on the quai in passing.' The diligence passes, sees 

Fantine 137 

me, stops and takes me up. This happens every day. You 
know nothing of life, my dear." 

Some time passed in this manner. Suddenly Favourite started 
as if from sleep. 

" Well! " said she, " and the surprise? " 

" Yes," returned Dahlia, " the famous surprise." 

" They are very long! " said Fantine. 

As Fantine finished the sigh, the boy who had waited at dinner 
entered. He had in his hand something that looked like a 

" What is that? " asked Favourite. 

" It is a paper that the gentlemen left for these ladies," he 

" Why did you not bring it at once? " 

" Because the gentlemen ordered me not to give it to the 
ladies before an hour," returned the boy. 

Favourite snatched the paper from his hands. It was really 
a letter. 

" Stop! " said she. " There is no address; but see what is 
written on it: 


She hastily unsealed the letter, opened it, and read (she knew 
how to read): 

" Oh, our lovers! 

" Know that we have parents. Parents you scarcely know 
the meaning of the word, they are what are called fathers and 
mothers in the civil code, simple but honest. Now these 
parents bemoan us, these old men claim us, these good men and 
women call us prodigal sons, desire our return and offer to kill 
for us the fatted calf. We obey them, being virtuous. At 
the moment when you read this, five mettlesome horses will be 
bearing us back to our papas and mammas. We are pitching 
our camps, as Bossuet says. We are going, we are gone. We 
fly in the arms of Laffitte, and on the wings of Caillard. The 
Toulouse diligence snatches us from the abyss, and you are this 
abyss, our beautiful darlings ! We are returning to society, 
to duty and order, on a full trot, at the rate of three leagues an 
hour. It is necessary to the country that we become, like 
everybody else, prefects, fathers of families, rural guards, and 
councillors of state. Venerate us. We sacrifice ourselves. 
Mourn for us rapidly, and replace us speedily. If this letter 
rends you, rend it in turn. Adieu. 

138 Les Miserables 

" For nearly two years we have made you happy. Bear us 
no ill will for it." 

" Signed : BLACHEVILLE, 
" P.S. The dinner is paid for." 

The four girls gazed at each other. 

Favourite was the first to break silence. 

" Well! " said she, " it is a good farce all the same." 

" It is very droll," said Zephine. 

" It must have been Blacheville that had the idea," resumed 
Favourite. " This makes me in love with him. Soon loved, 
soon gone. That is the story." 

" No," said Dahlia, " it is an idea of Tholomyes. This is 

" In that case," returned Favourite, " down with Blacheville, 
and long live Tholomyes ! " 

" Long live Tholomyes ! " cried Dahlia and Zephine. 

And they burst into laughter. 

Fantine laughed like the rest. 

An hour afterwards, when she had re-entered her chamber, 
she wept. It was her first love, as we have said ; she had given 
herself to this Tholomyes as to a husband, and the poor girl 
had a child. 




THERE was, during the first quarter of the present century, 
at Montfermiel, near Paris, a sort of chop-house: it is not there 
now. It was kept by a man and his wife, named Thenardier, 
and was situated in the Lane Boulanger. Above the door, nailed 
flat against the wall, was a board, upon which something was 
painted that looked like a man carrying on his back another man 
wearing the heavy epaulettes of a general, gilt and with large 
silver stars; red blotches typified blood; the remainder of the 
picture was smoke, and probably represented a battle. Beneath 
was this inscription: To THE SERGEANT OF WATERLOO. 

Nothing is commoner than a cart or wagon before the door of 
an inn; nevertheless the vehicle, or more properly speaking, the 
fragment of a vehicle which obstructed the street in front of 
the Sergeant of Waterloo one evening in the spring of 1815, 
certainly would have attracted by its bulk the attention of any 
painter who might have been passing. 

It was the fore-carriage of one of those drays for carrying 
heavy articles, used in wooded countries for transporting joists 
and trunks of trees: it consisted of a massive iron axle-tree 
with a pivot to which a heavy pole was attached, and which 
was supported by two enormous wheels. As a whole, it was 
squat, crushing, and misshapen: it might have been fancied a 
gigantic gun-carriage. 

The roads had covered the wheels, felloes, limbs, axle, and 
the pole with a coating of hideous yellow-hued mud, similar 
in tint to that with which cathedrals are sometimes decorated. 
The wood had disappeared beneath mud ; and the iron beneath 

Under the axle-tree hung festooned a huge chain fit for a 
Goliath of the galleys. 

This chain recalled, not the beams which it was used to 

140 Les Miserables 

carn% but the mastodons and mammoths which it might have 
harnessed; it reminded one of the galleys, but of cyclopean 
and superhuman galleys, and seemed as if unriveted from some 
monster. With it Homer could have bound Polyphemus, or 
Shakspeare Caliban. 

Why was this vehicle in this place in the street, one may ask ? 
First to obstruct the lane, and then to complete its work of rust. 
There is in the old social order a host of institutions which we 
find like this across our path in the full light of day, and which 
present no other reasons for being there. 

The middle of the chain was hanging quite near the ground, 
under the axle; and upon the bend, as on a swinging rope, two 
little girls were seated that evening in exquisite grouping, the 
smaller, eighteen months old, in the lap of the larger, who was 
two years and a half old. 

A handkerchief carefully knotted kept them from falling. A 
mother, looking upon this frightful chain, had said: "Ah! 
there is a plaything for my children! " 

The radiant children, picturesquely and tastefully decked, 
might be fancied two roses twining the rusty iron, with their 
triumphantly sparkling eyes, and their blooming, laughing faces. 
One was a rosy blonde, the other a brunette; their artless 
faces were two ravishing surprises; the perfume that was shed 
upon the air by a flowering shrub near by seemed their own 
out-breathings; the smaller one was showing her pretty little 
bod} 7 with the chaste indecency of babyhood. Above and around 
these delicate heads, moulded in happiness and bathed in light, 
the gigantic carriage, black with rust and almost frightful with 
its entangled curves and abrupt angles, arched like the mouth of 
a cavern. 

The mother, a woman whose appearance was rather forbidding, 
but touching at this moment, was seated on the sill of the inn, 
swinging the two children by a long string, while she brooded 
them with her eyes for fear of accident with that animal but 
heavenly expression peculiar to maternity. At each vibration 
the hideous links uttered a creaking noise like an angry cry; 
the little ones were in ecstasies, the setting sun mingled 
in the joy, and nothing could be more charming than this 
caprice of chance which made of a Titan's chain a swing for 

While rocking the babes the mother sang with a voice out of 
tune a then popular song: 

" II le faut, disait un guerrier." 

Fantine 141 

Her song and watching her children prevented her hearing and 
seeing what was passing in the street. 

Some one, however, had approached her as she was beginning 
the first couplet of the song, and suddenly she heard a voice 
say quite near her ear: 

" You have two pretty children there, madame." 

" A la belle et tendre Imogine," 

answered the mother, continuing her song; then she turned her 

A woman was before her at a little distance; she also had a 
child, which she bore in her arms. 

She was carrying in addition a large carpet-bag, which seemed 

This woman's child was one of the divinest beings that can 
be imagined : a little girl of two or three years. She might have 
entered the lists with the other little ones for coquetry of attire ; 
she wore a head-dress of fine linen; ribbons at her shoulders 
and Valenciennes lace on her cap. The folds of her skirt were 
raised enough to show her plump fine white leg : she was charm- 
ingly rosy and healthful. The pretty little creature gave one a 
desire to bite her cherry cheeks. We can say nothing of her 
eyes except that they must have been very large, and were 
fringed with superb lashes. She was asleep. 

She was sleeping in the absolutely confiding slumber peculiar 
to her age. Mothers' arms are made of tenderness, and sweet 
sleep blesses the child who lies therein. 

As to the mother, she seemed poor and sad; she had the 
appearance of a working woman who is seeking to return to the 
life of a peasant. She was young, and pretty ? It was possible, 
but in that garb beauty could not be displayed. Her hair, one 
blonde mesh of which had fallen, seemed very thick, but it 
was severely fastened up beneath an ugly, close, narrow nun's 
head-dress, tied under the chin. Laughing shows fine teeth 
when one has them, but she did not laugh. Her eyes seemed 
not to have been tearless for a long time. She was pale, and 
looked very weary, and somewhat sick. She gazed upon her 
child, sleeping in her arms, with that peculiar look which only 
a mother possesses who nurses her own child. Her form was 
clumsily masked by a large blue handkerchief folded across her 
bosom. Her hands were tanned and spotted with freckles, 
the forefinger hardened and pricked with the needle; she wore 
a coarse brown delaine mantle, a calico dress, and large heavy 
shoes. It was Fantine. 

142 Les Miserables 

Yes, Fantine. Hard to recognise, yet, on looking attentively, 
you saw that she still retained her beauty. A sad line, such as 
is formed by irony, had marked her right cheek. As to her 
toilette that airy toilette of muslin and ribbons which seemed 
as if made of gaiety, folly, and music, full of baubles and per- 
fumed with lilacs that had vanished like the beautiful sparkling 
hoarfrost, which we take for diamonds in the sun; they melt, 
and leave the branch dreary and black. 

Ten months had slipped away since " the good farce." 

What had passed during these ten months. We can guess. 

After recklessness, trouble. Fantine had lost sight of 
Favourite, Zephine, and Dahlia; the tie, broken on the part of 
the men, was unloosed on the part of the women; they would 
have been astonished if any one had said a fortnight afterwards 
they were friends; they had no longer cause to be so. Fantine 
was left alone. The father of her child gone Alas! such 
partings are irrevocable she found herself absolutely isolated, 
with the habit of labour lost, and the taste for pleasure acquired. 
Led by her liaison with Tholomyes to disdain the small business 
that she knew how to do, she had neglected her opportunities, 
they were all gone. No resource. Fantine could scarcely read, 
and did not know how to write. She had only been taught in 
childhood how to sign her name. She had a letter written by 
a public letter- writer to Tholomye's, then a second, then a third. 
Tholomyes had replied to none of them. One day, Fantine 
heard some old women saying as they saw her child: "Do 
people ever take such children to heart? They only shrug 
their shoulders at such children ! " Then she thought of Tholo- 
myes, who shrugged his shoulders at his child, and who did not 
take this innocent child to heart, and her heart became dark 
in the place that was his. What should she do ? She had no one 
to ask. She had committed a fault; but, in the depths of her 
nature, we know dwelt modesty and virtue. She had a vague 
feeling that she was on the eve of falling into distress, of slipping 
into the street. She must have courage ; she had it, and bore up 
bravely. The idea occurred to her of returning to her native 

village M sur M , there perhaps some one would know 

her, and give her work. Yes, but she must hide her fault. And 
she had a confused glimpse of the possible necessity of a separa- 
tion still more painful than the first. Her heart ached, but she 
took her resolution. It will be seen that Fantine possessed the 
stern courage of life. She had already valiantly renounced her 
finery, was draped in calico, and had put all her silks, her gew- 

Fantine 143 

gaws, her ribbons, and laces on her daughter the only vanity 
that remained, and that a holy one. She sold all she had, which 
gave her two hundred francs ; when her little debts were paid, 
she had but about eighty left. At twenty-two years of age, on 
a fine spring morning, she left Paris, carrying her child on her 
back. He who had seen the two passing, must have pitied them. 
The woman had nothing in the world but this child, and this 
child had nothing in the world but this woman. Fantine had 
nursed her child ; that had weakened her chest somewhat, and 
she coughed slightly. 

We shall have no further need to speak of M. Felix Tholomyes. 
We will only say here, that twenty years later, under King Louis 
Philippe, he was a fat provincial attorney, rich and influential, 
a wise elector and rigid juryman; always, however, a man of 

Towards noon, after having, for the sake of rest, travelled 
from time to time at a cost of three or four cents a league, in 
what they called then the Petites Voitures of the environs of Paris, 
Fantine reached Montefermeil, and stood in Boulanger Lane. 

As she was passing by the Thenardier chop-house, the two 
little children sitting in delight on their monstrous swing, had 
a sort of dazzling effect upon her, and she paused before this 
joyous vision. 

There are charms. These two little girls were one for this 

She beheld them with emotion. The presence of angels is 
a herald of paradise. She thought she saw above this inn the 
mysterious " HERE " of Providence. These children were 
evidently happy: she gazed upon them, she admired them, 
so much affected that at the moment when the mother was taking 
breath between the verses of her song, she could not help saying 
what we have been reading. 

" You have two pretty children there, madame." 

The most ferocious animals are disarmed by caresses to their 

The mother raised her head and thanked her, and made the 
stranger sit down on the stone step, she herself being on the door- 
sill: the two women began to talk together. 

" My name is Madame Thenardier," said the mother of the 
two girls: " we keep this inn." 

Then going on with her song, she sang between her teeth : 

" II le faut, je suis chevalier, 
Et je pars pour la Palestine." 

144 Les Miserables 

This Madame Thenardier was a red-haired, brawny, angular 
woman, of the soldier's wife type in all its horror, and, singularly 
enough, she had a lolling air which she had gained from novel- 
reading. She was a masculine lackadaisicalness. Old romances 
impressed on the imaginations of mistresses of chop-houses 
hare such effects. She was still young, scarcely thirty years 
old. If this woman, who was seated stooping, had been upright, 
perhaps her towering form and her broad shoulders, those of 
a movable colossus, fit for a market-woman, would have dis- 
mayed the traveller, disturbed her confidence, and prevented 
what we have to relate. A person seated instead of standing; 
fat hangs on such a thread as that. 

The traveller told her story, a little modified. 

She said she was a working woman, and her husband was 
dead. Not being able to procure work in Paris she was going 
in search of it elsewhere; in her own province; that she had 
left Paris that morning on foot; that carrying her child she had 
become tired, and meeting the Villemomble stage had got in; 
that from Villemomble she had come on foot to Montfermeil; 
that the child had walked a little, but not much, she was so 
young; that she was compelled to carry her, and the jewel had 
fallen asleep. 

And at these words she gave her daughter a passionate kiss, 
which wakened her. The child opened its large blue eyes, like 
its mother's, and saw what? Nothing, everything, with that 
serious and sometimes severe air of little children, which is one 
of the mysteries of their shining innocence before our shadowy 
virtues. One would say that they felt themselves to be angels, 
and knew us to be human. Then the child began to laugh, 
and, although the mother restrained her, slipped to the ground, 
with the indomitable energy of a little one that wants to run 
about. All at once she perceived the two others in their 
swing, stopped short, and put out her tongue in token of 

Mother Thenardier untied the children and took them from 
the swing, saying: 

" Play together, all three of you." 

At that age acquaintance is easy, and in a moment the little 
Thenardiers were playing with the new-comer, making holes 
in the ground to their intense delight. 

This new-comer was very sprightly: the goodness of the 
mother is written in the gaiety of the child; she had taken a 
splinter of wood, which she used as a spade, and was stoutly 

Fantine 145 

digging a hole fit for a fly. The gravedigger's work is charming 
when done by a child. 

The two women continued to chat. 

" What do your call your brat? " 

" Cosette." 

For Cosette read Euphrasie. The name of the little one was 
Euphrasie. But the mother had made Cosette out of it, by 
that sweet and charming instinct of mothers and of the people, 
who change Josef a into Pepita, and Francoise into Sillette. 
That is a kind of derivation which deranges and disconcerts 
all the science of etymologists. We knew a grandmother who 
succeeded in making from Theodore, Gnon. 

"How old is she?" 

" She is going on three years." 

" The age of my oldest." 

The three girls were grouped in an attitude of deep anxiety 
and bliss; a great event had occurred; a large worm had come 
out of the ground; they were afraid of it, and yet in ecstasies 
over it. 

Their bright foreheads touched each other: three heads in one 
halo of glory. 

" Children," exclaimed the Thenardier mother; " how soon 
they know one another. See them ! One would swear they were 
three sisters." 

These words were the spark which the other mother was 
probably awaiting. She seized the hand of Madame Thenardier 
and said: 

" Will you keep my child for me? " 

Madame Thenardier made a motion of surprise, which was 
neither consent nor refusal. 

Cosette's mother continued : 

" You see I cannot take my child into the country. Work 
forbids it. With a child I could not find a place there ; they are 
so absurd in that district. It is God who has led me before your 
inn. The sight of your little ones, so pretty, and clean, and 
happy, has overwhelmed me. I said: there is a good mother; 
they will be like three sisters, and then it will not be long before 
I come back. Will you keep my child for me ? " 

" I must think over it," said Thenardier. 

" I will give six francs a month." 

Here a man's voice was heard from within : 

" Not less than seven francs, and six months paid in advance." 

" Six times seven are forty-two," said Thenardier< 

i 46 Les Miserables 

" I will give it/' said the mother. 

" And fifteen francs extra for the first expenses," added the 

" That's fifty-seven francs/' said Madame Thenardier, and in 
the midst of her reckoning she sang indistinctly : 

"II le faut, disait un guerrier." 

" I will give it," said the mother; " I have eighty francs. 
That will leave me enough to go into the country if I walk. I 
will earn some money there, and as soon as I have I will come 
for my little love." 

The man's voice returned : 

" Has the child a wardrobe ? " 

" That is my husband," said Thenardier. 

" Certainly she has, the poor darling. I knew it was your 
husband. And a fine wardrobe it is too, an extravagant ward- 
robe, everything in dozens, and silk dresses like a lady. They 
are there in my carpet-bag." 

" You must leave that here," put in the man's voice. 

" Of course I shall give it to you," said the mother; " it 
would be strange if I should leave my child naked." 

The face of the master appeared. 

" It is all right/' said he. 

The bargain was concluded. The mother passed the night 
at the inn, gave her money and left her child, fastened again 
her carpet-bag, diminished by her child's wardrobe, and very 
light now, and set off next morning, expecting soon to return. 
These partings are arranged tranquilly, but they are full of 

A neighbour of the Thenardiers met this mother on her way, 
and came in, saying : 

" I have just met a woman in the street, who was crying as if 
her heart would break." 

When Cosette's mother had gone, the man said to his wife: 

" That will do me for my note of no francs which falls due 
to-morrow; I was fifty francs short. Do you know I should 
have had a sheriff and a protest? You have proved a good 
mousetrap with your little ones." 

" Without knowing it/' said the woman* 

Fantinc 147 



THE captured mouse was a very puny one, but the cat exulted 
even over a lean mouse. 

What were the Thenardiers? 

We will say but a word just here; by-and-by the sketch 
shall be completed. 

They belonged to that bastard class formed of low people 
who have risen, and intelligent people who have fallen, which 
lies between the classes called middle and lower, and which 
unites some of the faults of the latter with nearly all the vices 
of the former, without possessing the generous impulses of the 
workman, or the respectability of the bourgeois. 

They were of those dwarfish natures, which, if perchance 
heated by some sullen fire, easily become monstrous. The 
woman was at heart a brute; the man a blackguard: both in 
the highest degree capable of that hideous species of progress 
which can be made towards evil. There are souls which, crab- 
like, crawl continually towards darkness, going back in life 
rather than advancing in it; using what experience they have 
to increase their deformity; growing worse without ceasing, 
and becoming steeped more and more thoroughly in an intensify- 
ing wickedness. Such souls were this man and this woman. 

The man especially would have been a puzzle to a physiogno- 
mist. We have only to look at some men to distrust them, for 
we feel the darkness of their souls in two ways. They are 
restless as to what is behind them, and threatening as to what 
is before them. They are full of mystery. We can no more 
answer for what they have done, than for what they will do. 
The shadow in their looks denounces them. If we hear them 
utter a word, or see them make a gesture, we catch glimpses of 
guilty secrets in their past, and dark mysteries in their future. 

This Thenardier, if we may believe him, had been a soldier, 
a sergeant he said; he probably had made the campaign of 1815, 
and had even borne himself bravely according to all that ap- 
peared. We shall see hereafter in what his bravery consisted. 
The sign of his inn was an allusion to one of his feats of arms. 
He had painted it himself, for he knew how to do a little of every- 
thing badly. 

It was the time when the antique classical romance, which, 

148 Les Miserables 

after having been Clelie, sank to Lodotska, always noble, but 
becoming more and more vulgar, falling from Mdlle. de Scuderi 
to Madame Bournon-Malarme, and from Madame de Lafayette 
to Madame Barthelemy-Hadot, was firing the loving souls of 
the portresses of Paris, and making some ravages even in the 
suburbs. Madame Thenardier was just intelligent enough to 
read that sort of book. She fed on them. She drowned what 
little brain she had in them; and that had given her, while she 
was yet young, and even in later life, a kind of pensive attitude 
towards her husband, a knave of some calibre; a ruffian, edu- 
cated almost to the extent of grammar; at once coarse and fine, 
but so far as sentimentalism was concerned, reading Pigault 
Lebrun, and in " all which related to the sex," as he said in his 
jargon, a correct dolt without adulteration. His wife was twelve 
or fifteen years younger than he. At a later period, when the 
hair of the romantic weepers began to grow grey, when Megere 
parted company with Pamela, Madame Thenardier was only 
a gross bad woman who had relished stupid novels. Now, people 
do not read stupidities with impunity. The result was, that 
her eldest child was named Eponine, and the youngest, who had 
just escaped being called Gulnare, owed to some happy diversion 
made by a novel of Ducray Duminil, the mitigation of Azelma. 
However, let us say by the way, all things are not ridiculous 
and superficial in this singular epoch to which we allude, and 
which might be termed the anarchy of baptismal names. Besides 
this romantic element which we have noticed, there is the social 
symptom. To-day it is not unfrequent to see herdsboys named 
Arthur, Alfred, and Alphonse, and viscounts if there be any 
remaining named Thomas, Peter, or James. This change, 
which places the " elegant " name on the plebeian and the 
country appellation on the aristocrat, is only an eddy in the tide 
of equality. The irresistible penetration of a new inspiration 
is there as well as in everything else: beneath this apparent 
discordance there is a reality grand and deep the French 

Fantinc 1 49 



To be wicked does not insure prosperity for the inn did not 
succeed well. 

Thanks to Fantine's fifty-seven francs, Thenardier had been 
able to avoid a protest and to honour his signature. The next 
month they were still in need of money, and the woman carried 
Cosette's wardrobe to Paris and pawned it for sixty francs. 
When this sum was spent, the Thenardiers began to look upon 
the little girl as a child which they sheltered for charity, and 
treated her as such. Her clothes being gone, they dressed her in 
the cast-off garments of the little Thenardiers, that is in rags. 
They fed her on the orts and ends, a little better than the dog, 
and a little worse than the cat. The dog and cat were her mess- 
mates. Cosette ate with them under the table in a wooden dish 
like theirs. 

Her mother, as we shall see hereafter, who had found a place 

at M sur M wrote, or rather had some one write for her, 

every month, inquiring news of her child. The Thenardiers 
replied invariably: 

" Cosette is doing wonderfully well." 

The six months passed away: the mother sent seven francs 
for the seventh month, and continued to send this sum regularly 
month after month. The year was not ended before Thenardier 
said: " A pretty price that is. What does she expect us to do 
for her seven francs? " And he wrote demanding twelve francs. 
The mother, whom he persuaded that her child was happy and 
doing well, assented, and forwarded the twelve francs. 

There are certain natures which cannot have love on one side 
without hatred on the other. This Thenardier mother passion- 
ately loved her own little ones : this made her detest the young 
stranger. It is sad to think that a mother's love can have such 
a dark side. Little as was the place Cosette occupied in the 
house, it seemed to her that this little was taken from her 
children, and that the little one lessened the air hers breathed. 
This woman, like many women of her kind, had a certain amount 
of caresses, and blows, and hard words to dispense each day. 
If she had not had Cosette, it is certain that her daughters, 

i 50 Les Miserables 

idolised as they were, would have received all, but the little 
stranger did them the service to attract the blows to herself; her 
children had only the caresses. Cosette could not stir that she 
did not draw down upon herself a hailstorm of undeserved 
and severe chastisements. A weak, soft little one who knew 
nothing of this world, or of God, continually ill-treated, scolded, 
punished, beaten, she saw beside her two other young things 
like herself, who lived in a halo of glory ! 

The woman was unkind to Cosette, Eponine and Azelma 
were unkind also. Children at that age are only copies of the 
mother; the size is reduced, that is all. 

A year passed and then another. 

People used to say in the village: 

" What good people these Thenardiers are ! They are not 
rich, and yet they bring up a poor child, that has been left with 

They thought Cosette was forgotten by her mother. 

Meantime Thenardier, having learned in some obscure way 
that the child was probably illegitimate, and that its mother 
could not acknowledge it, demanded fifteen francs a month, 
saying " that the ' creature ' was growing and eating," and 
threatening to send her away. " She won't humbug me," he 
exclaimed, " I will confound her with the brat in the midst of 
her concealment. I must have more money." The mother 
paid the fifteen francs. 

From year to year the child grew, and her misery also. 

So long as Cosette was very small, she was the scapegoat of 
the two other children; as soon as she began to grow a little, 
that is to say, before she was five years old, she became the 
servant of the house. 

Five years old, it will be said, that is improbable. Alas I it 
is true, social suffering begins at all ages. Have we not seen 
lately the trial of Dumollard, an orphan become a bandit, who, 
from the age of five, say the official documents, being alone in 
the world, " worked for his living and stole! " 

Cosette was made to run of errands, sweep the rooms, the 
yard, the street, wash the dishes, and even carry burdens. The 
Thenardiers felt doubly authorised to treat her thus, as the 

mother, who still remained at M sur M , began to be 

remiss in her payments. Some months remained due. 

Had this mother returned to Montfermiel, at the end of these 
three years, she would not have known her child. Cosette, so 
fresh and pretty when she came to that house, was now thin 

Famine 151 

and wan. She had a peculiar restless air. Sly! said the 

Injustice had made her sullen, and misery had made her 
ugly. Her fine eyes only remained to her, and they were pain- 
ful to look at, for, large as they were, they seemed to increase 
the sadness ! 

It was a harrowing sight to see in the winter time the poor 
child, not yet six years old, shivering under the tatters of what 
was once a calico dress, sweeping the street before daylight with 
an enormous broom in her little red hands and tears in her large 

In the place she was called the Lark. People like figurative 
names and were pleased thus to name this little being, not 
larger than a bird, trembling, frightened, and shivering, awake 
every morning first of all in the house and the village, always 
in the street or in the fields before dawn. 

Only the poor lark never sang. 




WHAT had become of this mother, in the meanwhile, who, 
according to the people of Montfermeil, seemed to have aban- 
doned her child ? where was she ? what was she doing ? 

After leaving her little Cosette with the Thenardiers, she went 
on her way and arrived at M sur M . 

This, it will be remembered, was in 1818. 

Fantine had left the province some twelve years before, and 

M sur M had greatly changed in appearance. While 

Fantine had been slowly sinking deeper and deeper into misery, 
her native village had been prosperous. 

Within about two years there had been accomplished there 
one of those industrial changes which are the great events of 
small communities. 

This circumstance is important and we think it well to relate 
it, we might even say to italicise it. 

From time immemorial the special occupation of the inhabit- 
ants of M sur M had been the imitation of English jets 

and German black glass trinkets. The business had always 
been dull in consequence of the high price of the raw material, 
which reacted upon the manufacture. At the time of Fantine's 

return to M sur M an entire transformation had been 

effected in the production of these ' black goods.' Towards the 
end of the year 1815, an unknown man had established himself 
in the city, and had conceived the idea of substituting gum-lac 
for resin in the manufacture; and for bracelets, in particular, 
he made the clasps by simply bending the ends of the metal 
together instead of soldering them. 

This very slight change had worked a revolution. 

This very slight change had in fact reduced the price of the 
raw material enormously, and this had rendered it possible, 
first, to raise the wages of the labourer a benefit to the country 
secondly, to improve the quality of the goods an advantage 
for the consumer and thirdly, to sell them at a lower price 


Fantinc 153 

even while making three times the profit a gain for the 

Thus we have three results from one idea. 

In less than three years the inventor of this process had 
become rich, which was well, and had made all around him rich, 
which was better. He was a stranger in the Department. 
Nothing was known of his birth, and but little of his early 

The story went that he came to the city with very little 
money, a few hundred francs at most. 

From this slender capital, under the inspiration of an ingenious 
idea, made fruitful by order and care, he had drawn a fortune 
for himself, and a fortune for the whole region. 

On his arrival at M sur M he had the dress, the 

manners, and the language of a labourer only. 

It seems that the very day on which he thus obscurely entered 

the little city of M sur M , just at dusk on a December 

evening, with his bundle on his back, and a thorn stick in his 
hand, a great fire had broken out in the town-house. This man 
rushed into the fire, and saved, at the peril of his life, two 
children, who proved to be those of the captain of the gen- 
darmerie, and in the hurry and gratitude of the moment no one 
thought to ask him for his passport. He was known from that 
time by the name of Father Madeleine. 



HE was a man of about fifty, who always appeared to be pre- 
occupied in mind, and who was good-natured; this was all that 
could be said about him. 
Thanks to the rapid progress of this manufacture, to which 

he had given such wonderful life, M sur M had become 

a considerable centre of business. Immense purchases were 
made there every year for the Spanish markets, where there is 

a large demand for jet work, and M sur M , in this 

branch of trade, almost competed with London and Berlin. 
The profits of Father Madeleine were so great that by the end of 
the second year he was able to build a large factory, in which 
there were two immense workshops, one for men and the other 
for women: whoever was needy could go there and be sure of 

154 Les Miserables 

finding work and wages. Father Madeleine required the men 
to be willing, the women to be of good morals, and all to be 
honest. He divided the workshops, and separated the sexes 
in order that the girls and the women might not lose their 
modesty. On this point he was inflexible, although it was the 
only one in which he was in any degree rigid. He was con- 
firmed in this severity by the opportunities for corruption that 

abounded in M sur M , it being a garrisoned city. 

Finally his coming had been a beneficence, and his presence 
was a providence. Before the arrival of Father Madeleine, the 
whole region was languishing; now it was all alive with the 
healthy strength of labour. An active circulation kindled 
everything and penetrated everywhere. Idleness and misery 
were unknown. There was no pocket so obscure that it did not 
contain some money and no dwelling so poor that it was not the 
abode of some joy. 

Father Madeleine employed everybody; he had only one 
condition, " Be an honest man! " " Be an honest woman! " 

As we have said, in the midst of this activity, of which he was 
the cause and the pivot, Father Madeleine had made his fortune, 
but, very strangely for a mere man of business, that did not 
appear to be his principal care. It seemed that he thought 
much for others, and little for himself. In 1820, it was known 
that he had six hundred and thirty thousand francs standing 
to his credit in the banking-house of Laffitte; but before setting 
aside this six hundred and thirty thousand francs for himself, 
he had expended more than a million for the city and for the 

The hospital was poorly endowed, and he made provision for 

ten additional beds. M sur M is divided into the upper 

city and the lower city. The lower city, where he lived, had only 
one school-house, a miserable hovel which was fast going to 
ruin; he built two, one for girls, and the other for boys, and 
paid the two teachers, from his own pocket, double the amount 
of their meagre salary from the government; and one day, he 
said to a neighbour who expressed surprise at this: " The two 
highest functionaries of the state are the nurse and the school- 
master." He built, at his own expense, a house of refuge, an 
institution then almost unknown in France, and provided a 
fund for old and infirm labourers. About his factory, as a centre, 
a new quarter of the city had rapidly grown up, containing 
many indigent families, and he established a pharmacy that 
was free to all. 

Fantine 155 

At first, when he began to attract the public attention, the 
good people would say: "This is a fellow who wishes to get 
rich." When they saw him enrich the country before he en- 
riched himself, the same good people said: "This man is 
ambitious." This seemed the more probable, since he was 
religious and observed the forms of the church, to a certain 
extent, a thing much approved in those days. He went regu- 
larly to hear mass every Sunday. The local deputy, who scented 
rivalry everywhere, was not slow to borrow trouble on account 
of Madeleine's religion. This deputy, who had been a member 
of the Corp Legislatif of the Empire, partook of the religious 
ideas of a Father of the Oratory, known by the name of Fouche, 
Duke of Otranto, whose creature and friend he had been. In 
private he jested a little about God. But when he saw the rich 
manufacturer, Madeleine, go to low mass at seven o'clock, he 
foresaw a possible candidate in opposition to himself, and he 
resolved to outdo him. He took a Jesuit confessor, and went 
both to high mass and to vespers. Ambition at that time was, 
as the word itself imports, of the nature of a steeplechase. 
The poor, as well as God, gained by the terror of the honourable 
deputy, for he also established two beds at the hospital, which 
made twelve. 

At length, in 1819, it was reported in the city one morning, 
that upon the recommendation of the prefect, and in considera- 
tion of the services he had rendered to the country, Father 

Madeleine had been appointed by the king, Mayor of M 

sur M . Those who had pronounced the new-comer " an 

ambitious man," eagerly seized this opportunity, which all men 
desire, to exclaim : 

" There ! what did I tell you? " 

M sur M was filled with the rumour, and the report 

proved to be well founded, for, a few days afterwards, the 
nomination appeared in the Moniteur. The next day Father 
Madeleine declined. 

In the same year, 1819, the results of the new process invented 
by Madeleine had a place in the Industrial Exhibition, and upon 
the report of the jury, the king named the inventor a Chevalier 
of the Legion of Honour. Here was a new rumour for the little 
city. " Well I it was the Cross of the Legion of Honour that he 
wanted." Father Madeleine declined the Cross. 

Decidedly this man was an enigma, and the good people gave 
up the field, saying, " After all, he is a sort of an adventurer." 

As we have seen, the country owed a great deal to this man f 

: S 6 

Les Miserables 

and the poor owed him everything; he was so useful that all 
were compelled to honour him, and so kind that none could help 
loving him; his workmen in particular adored him, and he 
received their adoration with a sort of melancholy gravity. 
After he became rich, those who constituted " society " bowed 
to him as they met, and, in the city, he began to be called 
Monsieur Madeleine; but his workmen and the children con- 
tinued to call him Father Madeleine, and at that name his face 
always wore a smile. As his wealth increased, invitations rained 
in on him. " Society " claimed him. The little exclusive 

parlours of M sur M , which were carefully guarded, 

and in earlier days, of course, had been closed to the artisan, 
opened wide their doors to the millionaire. A thousand advances 
were made to him, but he refused them all. 

And again the gossips were at no loss. " He is an ignorant 
man, and of poor education. No one knows where he came from. 
He does not know how to conduct himself in good society, and 
it is by no means certain that he knows how to read." 

When they saw him making money, they said, " He is a 
merchant." When they saw the way in which he scattered 
his money, they said, " He is ambitious." When they saw him 
refuse to accept honours, they said, " He is an adventurer." 
When they saw him repel the advances of the fashionable, they 
said, " He is a brute." 

In 1820, five years after his arrival at M sur M , the 

services that he had rendered to the region were so brilliant, 
and the wish of the whole population was so unanimous, that 
the king again appointed him mayor of the city. He refused 
again; but the prefect resisted his determination, the principal 
citizens came and urged him to accept, and the people in the 
streets begged him to do so ; all insisted so strongly that at last 
he yielded. It was remarked that what appeared most of all 
to bring him to this determination, was the almost angry 
exclamation of an old woman belonging to the poorer class, 
who cried out to him from her door-stone, with some temper: 

" A good mayor is a good thing. Are you afraid of the good 
you can do ? " 

This was the third step in his ascent. Father Madeleine had 
become Monsieur Madeleine, and Monsieur Madeleine now 
became Monsieur the Mayor. 

Fantinc 157 


NEVERTHELESS he remained as simple as at first. He had grey 
hair, a serious eye, the brown complexion of a labourer, and 
the thoughtful countenance of a philosopher. He usually wore 
a hat with a wide brim, and a long coat of coarse cloth, buttoned 
to the chin. He fulfilled his duties as mayor, but beyond that 
his life was isolated. He talked with very few persons. He 
shrank from compliments, and with a touch of the hat walked 
on rapidly; he smiled to avoid talking, and gave to avoid 
smiling. The women said of him : " What a good bear !" His 
pleasure was to walk in the fields. 

He always took his meals alone with a book open before him 
in which he read. His library was small but well selected. He 
loved books; books are cold but sure friends. As his growing 
fortune gave him more leisure, it seemed that he profited by it 

to cultivate his mind. Since he had been at M sur M , 

it was remarked from year to year that his language became 
more polished, choicer, and more gentle. 

In his walks he liked to carry a gun, though he seldom used 
it. When he did so, however, his aim was frightfully certain. 
He never killed an inoffensive animal, and never fired at any 
of the small birds. 

Although he was no longer young, it was reported that he 
was of prodigious strength. He would offer a helping hand 
to any one who needed it, help up a fallen horse, push at a 
stalled wheel, or seize by the horns a bull that had broken loose. 
He always had his pockets full of money when he went out, and 
empty when he returned. When he passed through a village 
the ragged little youngsters would run after him with joy, and 
surround him like a swarm of flies. 

It was surmised that he must have lived formerly in the 
country, for he had all sorts of useful secrets which he taught 
the peasants. He showed them how to destroy the grain-moth 
by sprinkling the granary and washing the cracks of the floor 
with a solution of common salt, and how to drive away the 
weevil by hanging up all about the ceiling and walls, in the 
pastures, and in the houses, the flowers of the orviot. He had 
recipes for clearing a field of rust, of vetches, of moles, of dog- 
grass, and all the parasitic herbs which live upon the grain, 

i 5 8 

Les Miserables 

He defended a rabbit warren against rats, with nothing but 
the odour of a little Barbary pig that he placed there. 

One day he saw some country people very busy pulling up 
nettles; he looked at the heap of plants, uprooted, and already 
wilted, and said: " This is dead; but it would be well if we 
knew how to put it to some use. When the nettle is young, 
the leaves make excellent greens; when it grows old it has fila- 
ments and fibres like hemp and flax. Cloth made from the 
nettle is worth as much as that made from hemp. Chopped 
up, the nettle is good for poultry; pounded, it is good for horned 
cattle. The seed of the nettle mixed with the fodder of animals 
gives a lustre to their skin; the root, mixed with salt, produces 
a beautiful yellow dye. It makes, however, excellent hay, as 
it can be cut twice in a season. And what does the nettle need ? 
very little soil, no care, no culture; except that the seeds fall 
as fast as they ripen, and it is difficult to gather them; that 
is all. If we would take a little pains, the nettle would be 
useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful. Then we kill it. 
How much men are like the nettle! " After a short silence, he 
added: "My friends, remember this, that there are no bad 
herbs, and no bad men; there are only bad cultivators." 

The children loved him yet more, because he knew how to 
make charming little playthings out of straw and cocoanuts. 

When he saw the door of a church shrouded with black, he 
entered: he sought out a funeral as others seek out a christen- 
ing. The bereavement and the misfortune of others attracted 
him, because of his great gentleness; he mingled with friends 
who were in mourning, with families dressing in black, with 
the priests who were sighing around a corpse. He seemed glad 
to take as a text for his thoughts these funereal psalms, full of 
the vision of another world. With his eyes raised to heaven, 
he listened with a sort of aspiration towards all the mysteries 
of the infinite, to these sad voices, which sing upon the brink 
of the dark abyss of death. 

He did a multitude of good deeds as secretly as bad ones are 
usually done. He would steal into houses in the evening, and 
furtively mount the stairs. A poor devil, on returning to his 
garret, would find that his door had been opened, sometimes 
even forced, during his absence. The poor man would cry out: 
" Some thief has been here ! " When he got in, the first thing 
that he would see would be a piece of gold lying on the table. 
" The thief " who had been there was Father Madeleine. 

He was affable and sad. The people used to say: " There 

Famine 159 

is a rich man who does not show pride. There is a fortunate 
man who does not appear contented." 

Some pretended that he was a mysterious personage, and 
declared that no one ever went into his room, which was a true 
anchorite's cell furnished with hour-glasses, and enlivened with 
death's heads and cross-bones. So much was said of this kind 
that some of the more mischievous of the elegant young ladies 

of M sur M called on him one day and said: " Monsieur 

Mayor, will you show us your room? We have heard that it 
is a grotto." He smiled, and introduced them on the spot to 
this " grotto." They were well punished for their curiosity. 
It was a room very well fitted up with mahogany furniture, 
ugly as all furniture of that kind is, and the walls covered with 
shilling paper. They could see nothing but two candlesticks 
of antique form that stood on the mantel, and appeared to be 
silver, " for they were marked," a remark full of the spirit of 
these little towns. 

But none the less did it continue to be said that nobody ever 
went into that chamber, and that it was a hermit's cave, a place 
of dreams, a hole, a tomb. 

It was also whispered that he had " immense " sums deposited 
with Laffitte, with the special condition that they were always 
at his immediate command, in such a way, it was added, that 
Monsieur Madeleine might arrive in the morning at Laffitte's, 
sign a receipt and carry away his two or three millions in ten 
minutes. In reality these " two or three millions " dwindled 
down, as we have said, to six hundred and thirty or forty 
thousand francs. 



NEAR the beginning of the year 1821, the journals announced 

the decease of Monsieur Myriel, Bishop of D , " surnamed 

Monseigneur Bienvenu," who died in the odour of sanctity at 
the age of eighty-two years. 

The Bishop of D , to add an incident which the journals 

omitted, had been blind for several years before he died, and 
was content therewith, his sister being with him. 

Let us say by the way, to be blind and to be loved, is in fact, 
on this earth where nothing is complete, one of the most 
strangely exquisite forms of happiness. To have continually 

160 Les Miserables 

at your side a woman, a girl, a sister, a charming being, who is 
there because you have need of her, and because she cannot do 
without you, to know you are indispensable to her who is 
necessary to you, to be able at all times to measure her affection 
by the amount of her company that she gives you, and to say to 
yourself: she consecrates to me all her time, because I possess 
her whole heart; to see the thought instead of the face; to be 
sure of the fidelity of one being in the eclipse of the world; to 
imagine the rustling of her dress the rustling of wings; to hear 
her moving to and fro, going out, coming in, talking, singing, 
and to think that you are the centre of those steps, of those words, 
of that song ; to manifest at every minute your personal attrac- 
tion; to feel yourself powerful by so much the more as you are 
the more infirm; to become in darkness, and by reason of dark- 
ness, the star around which this angel gravitates; few happy 
lots can equal that. The supreme happiness of life is the 
conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves say rather, 
loved in spite of ourselves; this conviction the blind have. In 
their calamity, to be served, is to be caressed. Are they de- 
prived of anything? No. Light is not lost where love enters. 
And what a love! a love wholly founded in purity. There is 
no blindness where there is certainty. The soul gropes in 
search of a soul, and finds it. And that soul, so found and proven, 
is a woman. A hand sustains you, it is hers; lips lightly touch 
your forehead, they are her lips; you hear one breathing near 
you, it is she. To have her wholly, from her devotion to her 
pity, never to be left, to have that sweet weakness which is your 
aid, to lean upon that unbending reed, to touch Providence with 
your hands and be able to grasp it in your arms; God made 
palpable, what transport! The heart, that dark but celestial 
flower, bursts into a mysterious bloom. You would not give 
that shade for all light! The angel-soul is there, for ever there; 
if she goes away, it is only to return; she fades away in dream 
and reappears in reality. You feel an approaching warmth, 
she is there. You overflow with serenity, gaiety, and ecstasy; 
you are radiant in your darkness. And the thousand little 
cares! The nothings which are enormous in this void. The 
most unspeakable accents of the womanly voice employed to 
soothe you, and making up to you the vanished universe ! You 
are caressed through the soul. You see nothing, but you feel 
yourself adored. It is a paradise of darkness. 

From this paradise Monseigneur Bienvenu passed to the 

Fantine 161 

The announcement of his death was reproduced in the local 

paper of M sur M . Monsieur Madeleine appeared next 

morning dressed in black with crape on his hat. 

This mourning was noticed and talked about all over the 
town. It appeared to throw some light upon the origin of 
Monsieur Madeleine. The conclusion was that he was in some 
way related to the venerable bishop. " He wears black for the 

Bishop of D ," was the talk of the drawing-rooms ; it elevated 

Monsieur Madeleine very much, and gave him suddenly, and 

in a trice, marked consideration in the noble world of M 

sur M . The microscopic Faubourg Saint Germain of the 

little place thought of raising the quarantine for Monsieur 
Madeleine, the probable relative of a bishop. Monsieur Made- 
leine perceived the advancement that he had obtained, by 
the greater reverence of the old ladies, and the more frequent 
smiles of the young ladies. One evening, one of the dowagers 
of that little great world, curious by right of age, ventured to 
ask him: " The mayor is doubtless a relative of the late Bishop 
of D ? " 

He said: " No, madame." 

" But," the dowager persisted, " you wear mourning for 
him? " 

He answered : " In my youth I was a servant in his family." 

It was also remarked that whenever there passed through the 
city a young Savoyard who was tramping about the country 
in search of chimneys to sweep, the mayor would send for him, 
ask his name and give him money. The little Savoyards told 
each other, and many of them passed that way. 



LITTLE by little in the lapse of time all opposition had ceased. 
At first there had been, as always happens with those who rise 
by their own efforts, slanders and calumnies against Monsieur 
Madeleine, soon this was reduced to satire, then it was only wit, 
then it vanished entirely; respect became complete, unanimous, 
cordial, and there came a moment, about 1821, when the words 

Monsieur the Mayor were pronounced at M sur M with 

almost the same accent as the words Monseigneur the Bishop at 
D in 1815. People came from thirty miles around to con- 

1 62 Les Miserables 

suit Monsieur Madeleine. He settled differences, he prevented 
lawsuits, he reconciled enemies. Everybody, of his own will, 
chose him for judge. He seemed to have the book of the 
natural law by heart. A contagion of veneration had, in the 
course of six or seven years, step by step, spread over the whole 

One man alone, in the city and its neighbourhood, held him- 
self entirely clear from this contagion, and, whatever Father 
Madeleine did, he remained indifferent, as if a sort of instinct, 
unchangeable and imperturbable, kept him awake and on the 
watch. It would seem, indeed, that there is in certain men the 
veritable instinct of a beast, pure and complete like all instinct, 
which creates antipathies and sympathies, which separates one 
nature from another for ever, which never hesitates, never is 
perturbed, never keeps silent, and never admits itself to be in 
the wrong; clear in its obscurity, infallible, imperious, refrac- 
tory under all the counsels of intelligence, and all the solvents 
of reason, and which, whatever may be their destinies, secretly 
warns the dog-man of the presence of the cat-man, and the 
fox-man of the presence of the lion-man. 

Often, when Monsieur Madeleine passed along the street, 
calm, affectionate, followed by the benedictions of all, it 
happened that a tall man, wearing a flat hat and an iron-grey 
coat, and armed with a stout cane, would turn around abruptly 
behind him, and follow him with his eyes until he disappeared, 
crossing his arms, slowly shaking his head, and pushing his 
upper with his under lip up to his nose, a sort of significant 
grimace which might be rendered by: " But what is that man? 
I am sure I have seen him somewhere. At all events, I at 
least am not his dupe." 

This personage, grave with an almost threatening gravity, 
was one of those who, even in a hurried interview, command 
the attention of the observer. 

His name was Javert, and he was one of the police. 

He exercised at M sur M the unpleasant, but useful, 

function of inspector. He was not there at the date of Made- 
leine's arrival. Javert owed his position to the protection of 
Monsieur Chabouillet, the secretary of the Minister of State, 
Count Angles, then prefect of police at Paris. When Javert 
arrived at M sur M the fortune of the great manu- 
facturer had been made already, and Father Madeleine had 
become Monsieur Madeleine. 

Certain police officers have a peculiar physiognomy in which 

Fantine 163 

can be traced an air of meanness mingled with an air of authority. 
Javert had this physiognomy, without meanness. 

It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eye we 
should distinctly see this strange fact that each individual of 
the human species corresponds to some one of the species of the 
animal creation; and we should clearly recognise the truth, 
hardly perceived by thinkers, that, from the oyster to the eagle, 
from the swine to the tiger, all animals are in man, and that 
each of them is in a man; sometimes even, several of them at 
a time. 

Animals are nothing but the forms of our virtues and vices, 
wandering before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls. 
God shows them to us to make us reflect. Only, as animals are 
but shadows, God has not made them capable of education in 
the complete sense of the word. Why should he? On the 
contrary, our souls being realities and having their peculiar end, 
God has given them intelligence, that is to say, the possibility 
of education. Social education, well attended to, can always 
draw out of a soul, whatever it may be, the usefulness that it 

Be this said, nevertheless, from the restricted point of view 
of the apparent earthly life, and without prejudice to the deep 
question of the anterior or ulterior personality of the beings that 
are not man. The visible me in no way authorises the thinker 
to deny the latent me. With this reservation, let us pass on. 

Now, if we admit for a moment that there is in every man 
some one of the species of the animal creation, it will be easy 
for us to describe the guardian of the peace, Javert. 

The peasants of the Asturias believe that in every litter of 
wolves there is one dog, which is killed by the mother, lest on 
growing up it should devour the other little ones. 

Give a human face to this dog son of a wolf, and you will 
have Javert. 

Javert was born in a prison. His mother was a fortune- 
teller whose husband was in the galleys. He grew up to think 
himself without the pale of society, and despaired of ever 
entering it. He noticed that society closes its doors, without 
pity, on two classes of men, those who attack it and those who 
guard it; he could choose between these two classes only; at 
the same time he felt that he had an indescribable basis of 
rectitude, order, and honesty, associated with an irrepressible 
hatred for that gypsy race to which he belonged. He entered 
the police. He succeeded. At forty he was an inspector. 

1 64 Les Miserables 

In his youth he had been stationed in the galleys at the South* 

Before going further, let us understand what we mean by the 
words human face, which we have just now applied to Javert. 

The human face of Javert consisted of a snub nose, with two 
deep nostrils, which were bordered by large bushy whiskers that 
covered both his cheeks. One felt ill at ease the first time he 
saw those two forests and those two caverns. When Javert 
laughed, which was rarely and terribly, his thin lips parted, and 
showed, not only his teeth, but his gums; and around his nose 
there was a wrinkle as broad and wild as the muzzle of a fallow 
deer. Javert, when serious, was a bull-dog; when he laughed, 
he was a tiger. For the rest, a small head, large jaws, hair 
hiding the forehead and falling over the eyebrows, between the 
eyes a permanent central frown, a gloomy look, a mouth pinched 
and frightful, and an air of fierce command. 

This man was a compound of two sentiments, very simple 
and very good in themselves, but he almost made them evil by 
his exaggeration of them: respect for authority and hatred of 
rebellion; and in his eyes, theft, murder, all crimes, were only 
forms of rebellion. In his strong and implicit faith he included 
all who held any function in the state, from the prime minister 
to the constable. He had nothing but disdain, aversion, and 
disgust for all who had once overstepped the bounds of the law. 
He was absolute, and admitted no exceptions. On the one hand 
he said: "A public officer cannot be deceived; a magistrate 
never does wrong!" And on the other he said: "They are 
irremediably lost; no good can come out of them." He shared 
fully the opinion of those extremists who attribute to human 
laws an indescribable power of making, or, if you will, of deter- 
mining, demons, and who place a Styx at the bottom of society. 
He was stoical, serious, austere: a dreamer of stern dreams; 
humble and haughty, like all fanatics. His stare was cold and 
as piercing as a gimblet. His whole life was contained in these 
two words: waking and watching. He marked out a straight 
path through the most tortuous thing in the world; his con- 
science was bound up in his utility, his religion in his duties, 
and he was a spy as others are priests. Woe to him who should 
fall into his hands! He would have arrested his father if 
escaping from the galleys, and denounced his mother for violat- 
ing her ticket of leave. And he would have done it with that 
sort of interior satisfaction that springs from virtue. His life 
was a life of privations, isolation, self-denial, and chastity: 
never any amusement. It was implacable duty, absorbed in 

Fantine 165 

the police as the Spartans were absorbed in Sparta, a pitiless 
detective, a fierce honesty, a marble-hearted informer, Brutus 
united with Vidocq. 

The whole person of Javert expressed the spy and the 
informer. The mystic school of Joseph de Maistre, which at 
that time enlivened what were called the ultra journals with 
high-sounding cosmogonies, would have said that Javert was a 
symbol. You could not see his forehead which disappeared 
under his hat, you could not see his eyes which were lost under 
his brows, you could not see his chin which was buried in his 
cravat, you could not see his hands which were drawn up into 
his sleeves, you could not see his cane which he carried under 
his coat. But when the time came, you would see spring all at 
once out of this shadow, as from an ambush, a steep and narrow 
forehead, an ominous look, a threatening chin, enormous hands, 
and a monstrous club. 

In his leisure moments, which were rare, although he hated 
books, he read ; wherefore he was not entirely illiterate. This 
was perceived also from a certain emphasis in his speech. 

He was free from vice, we have said. When he was satisfied 
with himself, he allowed himself a pinch of snuff. That proved 
that he was human. 

It will be easily understood that Javert was the terror of all 
that class which the annual statistics of the Minister of Justice 
include under the heading: People without a fixed abode. To 
speak the name of Javert would put all such to flight; the face 
of Javert petrified them. 

Such was this formidable man. 

Javert was like an eye always fixed on Monsieur Madeleine; 
an eye full of suspicion and conjecture. Monsieur Madeleine 
finally noticed it, but seemed to consider it of no consequence. 
He asked no question of Javert, he neither sought him nor 
shunned him, he endured this unpleasant and annoying stare 
without appearing to pay any attention to it. He treated 
Javert as he did everybody else, at ease and with kindness. 

From some words that Javert had dropped, it was guessed 
that he had secretly hunted up, with that curiosity which 
belongs to his race, and which is more a matter of instinct than 
of will, all the traces of his previous life which Father Madeleine 
had left elsewhere. He appeared to know, and he said some- 
times in a covert way, that somebody had gathered certain 
information in a certain region about a certain missing family. 
Once he happened to say, speaking to himself: " I think I have 

1 66 Les Miserables 

got him ! " Then for three days he remained moody without 
speaking a word. It appeared that the clue which he thought 
lie had was broken. 

But, and this is the necessary corrective to what the meaning 
of certain words may have presented in too absolute a sense, 
there can be nothing really infallible in a human creature, and 
the very peculiarity of instinct is that it can be disturbed, 
followed up, and routed. Were this not so it would be superior 
to intelligence, and the beast would be in possession of a purer 
light than man. 

Javert was evidently somewhat disconcerted by the com- 
pletely natural air and the tranquillity of Monsieur Madeleine. 

One day, however, his strange manner appeared to make an 
impression upon Monsieur Madeleine. The occasion was this : 



MONSIEUR MADELEINE was walking one morning along one of 

the unpaved alleys of M sur M ; he heard a shouting 

and saw a crowd at a little distance. He went to the spot. 
An old man, named Father Fauchelevent, had fallen under his 
cart, his horse being thrown down. 

This Fauchelevent was one of the few who were still enemies 
of Monsieur Madeleine at this time. When Madeleine arrived 
in the place, the business of Fauchelevent, who was a notary of 
long-standing, and very well-read for a rustic, was beginning to 
decline. Fauchelevent had seen this mere artisan grow rich, 
while he himself, a professional man, had been going to ruin. 
This had filled him with jealousy, and he had done what he 
could on all occasions to injure Madeleine. Then came bank- 
ruptcy, and the old man, having nothing but a horse and cart, 
as he was without family, and without children, was compelled 
to earn his living as a carman. 

The horse had his thighs broken, and could not stir. The 
old man was caught between the wheels. Unluckily he had 
fallen so that the whole weight rested upon his breast. The 
cart was heavily loaded. Father Fauchelevent was uttering 
doleful groans. They had tried to pull him out, but in vain. 
An unlucky effort, inexpert help, a false push, might crush him. 
It was impossible to extricate him otherwise than by raising the 

Fantine 167 

waggon from beneath. Javert, who came up at the moment of 
the accident, had sent for a jack. 

Monsieur Madeleine came. The crowd fell back with respect. 

" Help," cried old Fauchelevent. " Who is a good fellow to 
save an old man? " 

Monsieur Madeleine turned towards the bystanders: 

" Has anybody a jack? " 

" They have gone for one," replied a peasant. 

" How soon will it be here? " 

" We sent to the nearest place, to Flachot Place, where there 
is a blacksmith; but it will take a good quarter of an hour 
at least." 

" A quarter of an hour ! " exclaimed Madeleine. 

It had rained the night before, the road was soft, the cart was 
sinking deeper every moment, and pressing more and more on 
the breast of the old carman. It was evident that in less than 
five minutes his ribs would be crushed. 

" We cannot wait a quarter of an hour," said Madeleine to, 
the peasants who were looking on. 

" We must! " 

" But it will be too late! Don't you see that the waggon is 
sinking all the while? " 

" It can't be helped." 

" Listen," resumed Madeleine, " there is room enough stirt 
under the waggon for a man to crawl in, and lift it with his- 
back. In half a minute we will have the poor man out. Is- 
there nobody here who has strength and courage? Five- 
louis d'ors for him! " 

Nobody stirred in the crowd. 

" Ten louis," said Madeleine. 

The bystanders dropped their eyes. One of them muttered: 
" He'd have to be devilish stout. And then he would risk 
getting crushed." 

" Come," said Madeleine, " twenty louis." 

The same silence. 

" It is not willingness which they lack," said a voice. 

Monsieur Madeleine turned and saw Javert. He had not- 
noticed him when he came. 

Javert continued : 

" It is strength. He must be a terrible man who can raise a 
waggon like that on his back." 

Then, looking fixedly at Monsieur Madeleine, he went on. 
emphasising every word that he uttered: 

1 68 Les Miserables 

" Monsieur Madeleine, I have known but one man capable 
of doing what you call for." 

Madeleine shuddered. 

Javert added, with an air of indifference but without taking 
his eyes from Madeleine: 

" He was a convict." 

"Ah! "said Madeleine. 

" In the galleys at Toulon." 

Madeleine became pale. 

Meanwhile the cart was slowly settling down. Father 
Fauchelevent roared and screamed: 

" I am dying ! my ribs are breaking ! a jack ! anything ! oh ! " 

Madeleine looked around him: 

" Is there nobody, then, who wants to earn twenty louis and 
save this poor old man's life." 

None of the bystanders moved. Javert resumed: 

" I have known but one man who could take the place of a 
jack; that was that convict." 

" Oh! how it crushes me! " cried the old man. 

Madeleine raised his head, met the falcon eye of Javert still 
fixed upon him, looked at the immovable peasants, and smiled 
sadly. Then, without saying a word, he fell on his knees, and 
even before the crowd had time to utter a cry, he was under 
the cart. 

There was an awful moment of suspense and of silence. 

Madeleine, lying almost flat under the fearful weight, was 
twice seen to try in vain to bring his elbows and knees nearer 
together. They cried out to him: "Father Madeleine! come 
out from there! " Old Fauchelevent himself said: " Monsieur 
Madeleine! go away! I must die, you see that; leave me! you 
will be crushed too." Madeleine made no answer. 

The bystanders held their breath. The wheels were still 
sinking and it had now become almost impossible for Madeleine 
to extricate himself. 

All at once the enormous mass started, the cart rose slowly, 
the wheels came half out of the ruts. A smothered voice was 
heard, crying: "Quick! help!" It was Madeleine, who had 
just made a final effort. 

They all rushed to the work. The devotion of one man had 
given strength and courage to all. The cart was lifted by 
twenty arms. Old Fauchelevent was safe. 

Madeleine arose. He was very pale, though dripping with 
sweat. His clothes were torn and covered with mud. All 

Fantine 169 

wept. The old man kissed his knees and called him the good 
God. He himself wore on his face an indescribable expression 
of joyous and celestial suffering, and he looked with tranquil 
eye upon Javert, who was still watching him. 



FAUCHELEVENT had broken his knee-pan in his fall. Father 
Madeleine had him carried to an infirmary that he had estab- 
lished for his workmen in the same building with his factory, 
which was attended by two sisters of charity. The next morn- 
ing the old man found a thousand franc bill upon the stand by 
the side of the bed, with this note in the handwriting of Father 
Madeleine : 1 have purchased your horse and cart. The cart was 
broken and the horse was dead. Fauchelevent got well, but 
he had a stiff knee. Monsieur Madeleine, through the recom- 
mendations of the sisters and the cure, got the old man a place 
as gardener at a convent in the Quartier Saint Antoine at Paris. 

Some time afterwards Monsieur Madeleine was appointed 
mayor. The first time that Javert saw Monsieur Madeleine 
clothed with the scarf which gave him full authority over the 
city, he felt the same sort of shudder which a bull-dog would 
feel who should scent a wolf in his master's clothes. From that 
time he avoided him as much as he could. When the necessities 
of the service imperiously demanded it, and he could not do 
otherwise than come in contact with the mayor, he spoke to 
him with profound respect. 

The prosperity which Father Madeleine had created at M 

sur M , in addition to the visible signs that we have pointed 

out, had another symptom which, although not visible, was not the 
less significant. This never fails. When the population is suffer- 
ing, when there is lack of work, when trade falls off, the tax-payer, 
constrained by poverty, resists taxation, exhausts and over- 
runs the delays allowed by law, and the government is forced 
to incur large expenditures in the costs of levy and collection. 
When work is abundant, when the country is rich and happy, 
the tax is easily paid and costs the state but little to collect. 
It may be said that poverty and public wealth have an infallible 
thermometer in the cost of the collection of the taxes. In seven 
years, the cost of the collection of the taxes had been reduced 
three-quarters in the district of M sur M , so that that 

170 Les Miserables 

district was frequently referred to especially by Monsieur de 
Villele, then Minister of Finance. 

Such was the situation of the country when Fantine returned. 
No one remembered her. Luckily the door of M. Madeleine's 
factory was like the face of a friend. She presented herself 
there, and was admitted into the workshop for women. The 
business was entirely new to Fantine; she could not be very 
expert in it, and consequently did not receive much for her 
day's work; but that little was enough, the problem was 
solved; she was earning her living. 



WHEN Fantine realised how she was living, she had a moment 
of joy. To live honestly by her own labour; what a heavenly 
boon! The taste for labour returned to her, in truth. She 
bought a mirror, delighted herself with the sight of her youth, 
her fine hair and her fine teeth, forgot many things, thought of 
nothing save Cosette and the possibilities of the future, and was 
almost happy. She hired a small room and furnished it on the 
credit of her future labour; a remnant of her habits of disorder. 

Not being able to say that she was married, she took good 
care, as we have already intimated, not to speak of her little girl. 

At first, as we have seen, she paid the Thenardiers punctually. 
As she only knew how to sign her name she was obliged to 
write through a public letter-writer. 

She wrote often; that was noticed. They began to whisper 
in the women's workshop that Fantine " wrote letters," and 
that " she had airs." For prying into any human affairs, none 
are equal to those whom it does not concern. " Why does this 
gentleman never come till dusk? " " Why does Mr. So-and-so 
never hang his key on the nail on Thursday? " " Why does he 
always take the by-streets?" "Why does madame always 
leave her carriage before getting to the house? " " Why does 
she send to buy a quire of writing-paper when she has her 
portfolio full of it? " etc. etc. There are persons who, to solve 
these enigmas, which are moreover perfectly immaterial to them, 
spend more money, waste more time, and give themselves more 
trouble than would suffice for ten good deeds ; and that gratuit- 
ously, and for the pleasure of it, without being paid for their 

Fantinc 171 

curiosity in any other way than by curiosity. They will follow 
this man or that woman whole days, stand guard for hours at 
the corners of the street, under the entrance of a passage-way, 
at night, in the cold and in the rain, bribe messengers, get 
hack-drivers and lackeys drunk, fee a chambermaid, or buy a 
porter. For what? for nothing. Pure craving to see, to know, 
and to find out. Pure itching for scandal. And often these 
secrets made known, these mysteries published, these enigmas 
brought into the light of day, lead to catastrophes, to duels, to 
failures, to the ruin of families, and make lives wretched, to 
the great joy of those who have " discovered all " without any 
interest, and from pure instinct. A sad thing. 

Some people are malicious from the mere necessity of talking. 
Their conversation, tattling in the drawing-room, gossip in the 
antechamber, is like those fireplaces that use up wood rapidly; 
they need a great deal of fuel ; the fuel is their neighbour. 

So Fantine was watched. 

Beyond this, more than one was jealous of her fair hair and 
of her white teeth. 

It was reported that in the shop, with all the rest about her, 
she often turned aside to wipe away a tear. Those were 
moments when she thought of her child; perhaps also of the 
man whom she had loved. 

It is a mournful task to break the sombre attachments of the 

It was ascertained that she wrote, at least twice a month, and 
always to the same address, and that she prepaid the postage. 
They succeeded in learning the address: Monsieur, Monsieur 
Thenardier, inn-keeper, Montjermeil. The public letter-writer, 
a simple old fellow, who could not fill his stomach with red- 
wine without emptying his pocket of his secrets, was made to 
reveal this at a drinking-house. In short, it became known 
that Fantine had a child. " She must be that sort of a woman." 
And there was one old gossip who went to Montfermiel, talked 
with the Thenardiers, and said on her return: " For my thirty- 
five francs, I have found out all about it. I have seen the 
child ! " 

The busybody who did this was a beldame, called Madame 
Victurnien, keeper and guardian of everybody's virtue. 
Madame Victurnien was fifty-six years old, and wore a mask of 
old age over her mask of ugliness. Her voice trembled, and 
she was capricious. It seemed strange, but this woman had 
been young. In her youth, in '93, she married a monk who 

172 Les Miserables 

had escaped from the cloister in a red cap, and passed from the 
Bernardines to the Jacobins. She was dry, rough, sour, sharp, 
crabbed, almost venomous; never forgetting her monk, whose 
widow she was, and who had ruled and curbed her harshly. 
She was a nettle bruised by a frock. At the restoration she 
became a bigot, and so energetically, that the priests had 
pardoned her monk episode. She had a little property, which 
she had bequeathed to a religious community with great flourish. 
She was in very good standing at the bishop's palace in Arras. 
This Madame Victurnien then went to Montfermeil, and 
returned saying: " I have seen the child." 

All this took time; Fantine had been more than a year at 
the factory, when one morning the overseer of the workshop 
handed her, on behalf of the mayor, fifty francs, saying that 
she was no longer wanted in the shop, and enjoining her, on 
behalf of the mayor, to leave the city. 

This was the very same month in which the Thenardiers, 
after having asked twelve francs instead of six, had demanded 
fifteen francs instead of twelve. 

Fantine was thunderstruck. She could not leave the city; 
she was in debt for her lodging and her furniture. Fifty francs 
were not enough to clear off that debt. She faltered out some 
suppliant words. The overseer gave her to understand that 
she must leave the shop instantly. Fantine was moreover only 
a moderate worker. Overwhelmed with shame even more than 
with despair, she left the shop, and returned to her room. Her 
fault then was now known to all ! 

She felt no strength to say a word. She was advised to see 
the mayor; she dared not. The mayor gave her fifty francs, 
because he was kind, and sent her away, because he was just. 
She bowed to that decree. 



THE monk's widow was then good for something. 

Monsieur Madeleine had known nothing of all this. These 
are combinations of events of which life is full. It was Monsieur 
Madeleine's habit scarcely ever to enter the women's workshop. 

He had placed at the head of this shop an old spinster whom 
the cure had recommended to him, and he had entire confidence 
in this overseer, a very respectable person, firm, just, upright, 

Fantine 173 

full of that charity which consists in giving, but not having to 
the same extent that charity which consists in understanding 
and pardoning. Monsieur Madeleine left everything to her. 
The best men are often compelled to delegate their authority. 
It was in the exercise of this full power, and with the conviction 
that she was doing right, that the overseer had framed the 
indictment, tried, condemned, and executed Fantine. 

As to the fifty francs, she had given them from a fund that 
Monsieur Madeleine had intrusted her with for alms-giving and 
aid to the work-women, and of which she rendered no account. 

Fantine offered herself as a servant in the neighbourhood; 
she went from one house to another. Nobody wanted her. 
She could not leave the city. The second-hand dealer to whom 
she was in debt for her furniture, and such furniture ! had said 
to her: " If you go away, I will have you arrested as a thief." 
The landlord, whom she owed for rent, had said to her: " You 
are young and pretty, you can pay." She divided the fifty 
francs between the landlord and the dealer, returned to the 
latter three-quarters of his goods, kept only what was necessary, 
and found herself without work, without position, having 
nothing but her bed, and owing still about a hundred francs. 

She began to make coarse shirts for the soldiers of the garri- 
son, and earned twelve sous a day. Her daughter cost her ten. 
It was at this time that she began to get behindhand with the 

However, an old woman, who lit her candle for her when she 
came home at night, taught her the art of living in misery. 
Behind living on a little, lies the art of living on nothing. They 
are two rooms; the first is obscure, the second is utterly dark. 

Fantine learned how to do entirely without fire in winter, 
how to give up a bird that eats a farthing's worth of millet 
every other day, how to make a coverlid of her petticoat, and a 
petticoat of her coverlid, how to save her candle in taking her 
meals by the light of an opposite window. Few know how 
much certain feeble beings, who have grown old in privation and 
honesty, can extract from a sou. This finally becomes a talent. 
Fantine acquired this sublime talent and took heart a little* 

During these times, she said to a neighbour : " Bah ! I say to 
myself: by sleeping but five hours and working all the rest at 
my sewing, I shall always succeed in nearly earning bread. 
And then, when one is sad, one eats less. Well! what with 
sufferings, troubles, a little bread on the one hand, anxiety on 
the other, all that will keep me alive." 

i/4 Les Miserablcs 

In this distress, to have had her little daughter would have 
been a strange happiness. She thought of having her come. 
But what? to make her share her privation? and then, she 
owed the Thenardiers? How could she pay them? and the 
journey! how pay for that? 

The old woman, who had given her what might be called 
lessons in indigent life, was a pious woman, Marguerite by name, 
a devotee of genuine devotion, poor, and charitable to the poor, 
and also to the rich, knowing how to write just enough to sign 
Margeritte, and believing in God, which is science. 

There are many of these virtues in low places; some day 
they will be on high. This life has a morrow. 

At first, Fantine was so much ashamed that she did not dare 
to go out. 

When she was in the street, she imagined that people turned 
behind her and pointed at her; everybody looked at her and 
no one greeted her; the sharp and cold disdain of the passers-by 
penetrated her, body and soul, like a north wind. 

In small cities an unfortunate woman seems to be laid bare 
to the sarcasm and the curiosity of all. In Paris, at least, 
nobody knows you, and that obscurity is a covering. Oh ! how 
she longed to go to Paris ! impossible. 

She must indeed become accustomed to disrespect as she had 
to poverty. Little by little she learned her part. After two 
or three months she shook off her shame and went out as if 
there were nothing in the way. " It is all one to me," said she. 

She went and came, holding her head up and wearing a bitter 
smile, and felt that she was becoming shameless. 

Madame Victurnien sometimes saw her pass her window, 
noticed the distress of " that creature," thanks to her " put 
back to her place," and congratulated herself. The malicious 
have a dark happiness. 

Excessive work fatigued Fantine, and the slight dry cough 
that she had increased. She sometimes said to her neighbour, 
Marguerite, " just feel how hot my hands are." 

In the morning, however, when with an old broken comb she 
combed her fine hair which flowed down in silky waves, she 
enjoyed a moment of happiness, 

Fantine 175 



SHE had been discharged towards the end of winter; summer 
passed away, but winter returned. Short days, less work. In 
winter there is no heat, no light, no noon, evening touches 
morning, there is fog, and mist, the window is frosted, and you 
cannot see clearly. The sky is but the mouth of a cave. The 
whole day is the cave. The sun has the appearance of a pauper. 
Frightful season! Winter changes into stone the water of 
heaven and the heart of man. Her creditors harassed her. 

Fantine earned too little. Her debts had increased. The 
Thenardiers being poorly paid, were constantly writing letters 
to her, the contents of which disheartened her, while the postage 
was ruining her. One day they wrote to her that her little 
Cosette was entirely destitute of clothing for the cold weather, 
that she needed a woollen skirt, and that her mother must send 
at least ten francs for that. She received the letter and crushed 
it in her hand for a whole day. In the evening she went into 
a barber's shop at the corner of the street, and pulled out her 
comb. Her beautiful fair hair fell below her waist. 

" What beautiful hair ! " exclaimed the barber. 

" How much will you give me for it? " said she. 

" Ten francs." 

" Cut it off." 

She bought a knit skirt and sent it to the Thenardiers. 

This skirt made the Thenardiers furious. It was the money 
that they wanted. They gave the skirt to Eponine. The poor 
lark still shivered. 

Fantine thought: " My child is no longer cold, I have clothed 
her with my hair." She put on a little round cap which con- 
cealed her shorn head, and with that she was still pretty. 

A gloomy work was going on in Fantine's heart. 

When she saw that she could no longer dress her hair, she 
began to look with hatred on all around her. She had long 
shared in the universal veneration for Father Madeleine; never- 
theless, by dint of repeating to herself that it was he who had 
turned her away, and that he was the cause of her misfortunes, 
she came to hate him also, and especially. When she passed 
the factory at the hours in which the labourers were at the 
door, she forced herself to laugh and sing. 

An old working - woman who saw her once singing and 


Lcs Miserables 

laughing in this way, said: " There is a girl who will come to a 
bad end." 

She took a lover, the first comer, a man whom she did not 
love, through bravado, and with rage in her heart. He was a 
wretch, a kind of mendicant musician, a lazy ragamuffin, who 
beat her, and who left her, as she had taken him, with disgust. 

She worshipped her child. 

The lower she sank, the more all became gloomy around her, 
the more the sweet little angel shone out in the bottom of her 
heart. She would say: "When I am rich, I shall have my 
Cosette with me; " and she laughed. The cough did not leave 
her, and she had night sweats. 

One day she received from the Thenardiers a letter in these 
words: " Cosette is sick of an epidemic disease. A miliary 
fever they call it. The drugs necessary are dear. It is ruining 
us, and we can no longer pay for them. Unless you send us 
forty francs within a week the little one will die." 

She burst out laughing, and said to her old neighbour: 
"Oh! they are nice! forty francs! think of that! that is two 
Napoleons! Where do they think I can get them? Are they 
fools, these boors? " 

She went, however, to the staircase, near a dormer window, 
and read the letter again. 

Then she went down stairs and out of doors, running and 
jumping, still laughing. 

Somebody who met her said to her: " What is the matter 
with you, that you are so gay? " 

She answered: "A stupid joke that some country people 
have just written me. They ask me for forty francs; the 

As she passed through the square, she saw many people 
gathered about an odd-looking carriage on the top of which 
stood a man in red clothes, declaiming. He was a juggler and 
a travelling dentist, and was offering to the public complete 
sets of teeth, opiates, powders, and elixirs. 

Fantine joined the crowd and began to laugh with the rest 
at this harangue, in which were mingled slang for the rabble 
and jargon for the better sort. The puller of teeth saw this 
beautiful girl laughing, and suddenly called out: " You have 
pretty teeth, you girl who are laughing there. If you will sell 
me your two incisors, I will give you a gold Napoleon for each 
of them." 

" What is that? What are my incisors? " asked Fantine. 

Fantine 1 77 

" The incisors," resumed the professor of dentistry, " are the 
front teeth, the two upper ones." 

" How horrible ! " cried Fantine. 

" Two Napoleons ! " grumbled a toothless old hag who stood 
by. " How lucky she is !" 

Fantine fled away and stopped her ears not to hear the shrill 
voice of the man who called after her: " Consider, my beauty! 
two Napoleons! how much good they will do you! If you 
have the courage for it, come this evening to the inn of the 
Tillac d' Argent ; you will find me there." 

Fantine returned home; she was raving, and told the story 
to her good neighbour Marguerite: " Do you understand that? 
isn't he an abominable man? Why do they let such people go 
about the country? Pull out my two front teeth! why, I 
should be horrible! The hair is bad enough, but the teeth! 
Oh ! what a monster of a man ! I would rather throw myself 
from the fifth story, head first, to the pavement! He told me 
that he would be this evening at the Tillac d' Argent. 

" And what was it he offered you? " asked Marguerite. 

" Two Napoleons." 

" That is forty francs." 

" Yes," said Fantine, " that makes forty francs." 

She became thoughtful and went about her work. In a 
quarter of an hour she left her sewing and went to the stairs to 
read again the Thenardiers' letter. 

On her return she said to Marguerite, who was at work 
near her : 

" What does this mean, a miliary fever? Do you know? " 

" Yes," answered the old woman, " it is a disease." 

" Then it needs a good many drugs? " 

" Yes; terrible drugs." 

" How does it come upon you? " 

" It is a disease that comes in a moment." 

" Does it attack children? " 

" Children especially." 

" Do people die of it? " 

" Very often," said Marguerite. 

Fantine withdrew and went once more to read over the letter 
on the stairs. 

In the evening she went out, and took the direction of the 
Rue de Paris where the inns are. 

The next morning, when Marguerite went into Fantine's 
chamber before daybreak, for they always worked together, 

7 8 

Les Miserables 

and so made one candle do for the two, she found Fantine 
seated upon her couch, pale and icy. She had not been in bed. 
Her cap had fallen upon her knees. The candle had burned all 
night, and was almost consumed. 

Marguerite stopped upon the threshold, petrified by this wild 
disorder, and exclaimed : " Good Lord ! the candle is all burned 
out. Something has happened." 

Then she looked at Fantine, who sadly turned her shorn head. 
Fantine had grown ten years older since evening. 
" Bless us ! " said Marguerite, " what is the matter with you, 

" Nothing," said Fantine. " Quite the contrary. My child 
will not die with that frightful sickness for lack of aid. I am 

So saying, she showed the old woman two Napoleons that 
glistened on the table. 

"Oh! good God!" said Marguerite. "Why there is a 
fortune! where did you get these louis d'or? " 
" I got them," answered Fantine. 

At the same time she smiled. The candle lit up her face. 
It was a sickening smile, for the corners of her mouth were 
stained with blood, and a dark cavity revealed itself there. 
The two teeth were gone. 
She sent the forty francs to Montfermeil. 
And this was a ruse of the Thenardiers to get money. Cosette 
was not sick. 

Fantine threw her looking-glass out of the window. Long 
before she had left her little room on the second story for an 
attic room with no other fastening than a latch; one of those 
garret rooms the ceiling of which makes an angle with the floor 
and hits your head at every moment. The poor cannot go to 
the end of their chamber or to the end of their destiny, but by 
bending continually more and more. She no longer had a bed, 
she retained a rag that she called her coverlid, a mattress on 
the floor, and a worn-out straw chair. Her little rose-bush was 
dried up in the corner, forgotten. In the other corner was a 
butter-pot for water, which froze in the winter, and the different 
levels at which the water had stood remained marked a long 
time by circles of ice. She had lost her modesty, she was losing 
her coquetry. The last sign. She would go out with a dirty 
cap. Either from want of time or from indifference she no 
longer washed her linen. As fast as the heels of her stockings 
wore out she drew them down into her shoes. This was shown 

Fantinc 179 

by certain perpendicular wrinkles. She mended her old, worn- 
out corsets with bits of calico which were torn by the slightest 
motion. Her creditors quarrelled with her and gave her no 
rest. She met them in the street ; she met them again on her 
stairs. She passed whole nights in weeping and thinking. She 
had a strange brilliancy in her eyes, and a constant pain in her 
shoulder near the top of her left shoulder-blade. She coughed 
a great deal. She hated Father Madeleine thoroughly, and 
never complained. She sewed seventeen hours a day; but a 
prison contractor, who was working prisoners at a loss, suddenly 
cut down the price, and this reduced the day's wages of free 
labourers to nine sous. Seventeen hours of work, and nine 
sous a day! Her creditors were more pitiless than ever. The 
second-hand dealer, who had taken back nearly all his furniture, 
was constantly saying to her: " When will you pay me, wench?" 
Good God ! what did they want her to do ? She felt herself 
hunted down, and something of the wild beast began to develop 
within her. About the same time, Thenardier wrote to her 
that really he had waited with too much generosity, and that 
he must have a hundred francs immediately, or else little 
Cosette, just convalescing after her severe sickness, would be 
turned out of doors into the cold and upon the highway, and 
that she would become what she could, and would perish if she 
must. " A hundred francs," thought Fantine. " But where is 
there a place where one can earn a hundred sous a day? " 
" Come ! " said she, " I will sell what is left." 
The unfortunate creature became a woman of the town. 



WHAT is this history of Fantine ? It is society buying a slave. 

From whom? From misery. 

From hunger, from cold, from loneliness, from abandonment, 
from privation. Melancholy barter. A soul for a bit of bread. 
Misery makes the offer, society accepts. 

The holy law of Jesus Christ governs our civilisation, but it 
does not yet permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared 
from European civilisation. This is a mistake. It still exists; 
but it weighs now only upon woman, and it is called prostitution. 

It weighs upon woman, that is to say, upon grace, upon 

180 Les Miserables 

feebleness, upon beauty, upon maternity* This is not one of 
the least of man's shames. 

At the stage of this mournful drama at which we have no\ 
arrived, Fantine has nothing left of what she had formerly been* 
She has become marble in becoming corrupted. Whoever 
touches her feels a chill. She goes her ways, she endures you 
and she knows you not; she wears a dishonoured and severe 
face. Life and social order have spoken their last word to her. 
All that can happen to her has happened. She has endured 
all, borne all, experienced all, suffered all, lost all, wept for all. 
She is resigned, with that resignation that resembles indifference 
as death resembles sleep. She shuns nothing now. She fears 
nothing now. Every cloud falls upon her, and all the ocean 
sweeps over her ! What matters it to her 1 the sponge is already 

She believed so at least, but it is a mistake to imagine that 
man can exhaust his destiny, or can reach the bottom of 
anything whatever. 

Alas! what are all these destinies thus driven pell-mell? 
whither go they ? why are they so ? 

He who knows that, sees all the shadow^ 

He is alone. His name is God. 

THERE is in all small cities, and there was at M sur M 

in particular, a set of young men who nibble their fifteen hun- 
dred livres of income in the country with the same air with 
which their fellows devour two hundred thousand francs a year 
at Paris. They are beings of the great neuter species ; geldings, 
parasites, nobodies, who have a little land, a little folly, and a 
little wit, who would be clowns in a drawing-room, and think 
themselves gentlemen in a bar-room, who talk about " my 
fields, my woods, my peasants," hiss the actresses at the theatre 
to prove that they are persons of taste, quarrel with the officers 
of the garrison to show that they are gallant, hunt, smoke, 
gape, drink, take snuff, play billiards, stare at passengers getting 
out of the coach, live at the caf6, dine at the inn, have a dog 
who eats the bones under the table, and a mistress who sets the 
dishes upon it, hold fast to a sou, overdo the fashions, admire 
tragedy, despise women, wear out their old boots, copy London 

Fantine 1 8 1 

as reflected from Paris, and Paris as reflected from Pont-a- 
Mousson, grow stupid as they grow old, do no work, do no 
good, and not much harm. 

Monsieur Felix Tholomyes, had he remained in his province 
and never seen Paris, would have been such a man. 

If they were richer, we should say : they are dandies ; if they 
were poorer, we should say: they are vagabonds. They are 
simply idlers. Among these idlers there are some that are 
bores, some that are bored, some dreamers, and some jokers. 

In those days, a dandy was made up of a large collar, a large 
cravat, a watch loaded with chains, three waistcoats worn one 
over the other, of different colours, the red and the blue within, 
a short olive-coloured coat with a fish-tail skirt, a double row 
of silver buttons alternating with one another and running up 
to the shoulder, and pantaloons of a lighter olive, ornamented 
at the two seams with an indefinite, but always odd, number 
of ribs, varying from one to eleven, a limit which was never 
exceeded. Add to this, Blucher boots with little iron caps on 
the heel, a high-crowned and narrow-brimmed hat, hair bushed 
out, an enormous cane, and conversation spiced with the puns 
of Potier. Above all, spurs and moustaches. In those days, 
moustaches meant civilians, and spurs meant pedestrians. 

The provincial dandy wore longer spurs and fiercer moustaches. 

It was the time of the war of the South American Republics 
against the King of Spain, of Bolivar against Morillo. Hats 
with narrow brims were Royalist, and were called Morillos; 
the liberals wore hats with wide brims which were called Bolivars. 

Eight or ten months after what has been related in the pre- 
ceding pages, in the early part of January, 1823, one evening 
when it had been snowing, one of these dandies, one of these 
idlers, a " well-intentioned " man, for he wore a morillo, very 
warmly wrapped in one of those large cloaks which completed 
the fashionable costume in cold weather, was amusing himself 
with tormenting a creature who was walking back and forth 
before the window of the officers' cafe", in a ball-dress, with her 
neck and shoulders bare, and flowers upon her head. The 
dandy was smoking, for that was decidedly the fashion. 

Every time that the woman passed before him, he threw out 
at her, with a puff of smoke from his cigar, some remark which 
he thought was witty and pleasant, as: " How ugly you are! " 
" Are you trying to hide? " " You have lost your teeth ! " etc., 
etc. This gentleman's name was Monsieur Bamatabois. The 
woman, a rueful, bedizened spectre, who was walking backwards 

1 82 Les Miserables 

and forwards upon the snow, did not answer him, did not even 
look at him, but continued her walk in silence and with a dismal 
regularity that brought her under his sarcasm every five minutes, 
like the condemned soldier who at stated periods returns under 
the rods. This failure to secure attention doubtless piqued the 
loafer, who, taking advantage of the moment when she turned, 
came up behind her with a stealthy step and stifling his laughter, 
stooped down, seized a handful of snow from the side walk, and 
threw it hastily into her back between her naked shoulders. 
The girl roared with rage, turned, bounded like a panther, and 
rushed upon the man, burying her nails in his face, and using 
the most frightful words that ever fell from the off-scouring 
of a guard-house. These insults were thrown out in a voice 
roughened by brandy, from a hideous mouth which lacked the 
two front teeth. It was Fantine. 

At the noise which this made, the officers came out of the 
cafe, a crowd gathered, and a large circle was formed, laughing, 
jeering, and applauding, around this centre of attraction com- 
posed of two beings who could hardly be recognised as a man 
and a woman, the man defending himself, his hat knocked 
off, the woman kicking and striking, her head bare, shrieking, 
toothless, and without hair, livid with wrath, and horrible. 

Suddenly a tall man advanced quickly from the crowd, seized 
the woman by her muddy satin waist, and said: " Follow me ! " 

The woman raised her head; her furious voice died out at 
once. Her eyes were glassy, from livid she had become pale, 
and she shuddered with a shudder of terror. She recognised 

The dandy profited by this to steal away. 



JAVERT dismissed the bystanders, broke up the circle, and 
walked off rapidly towards the Bureau of Police, which is at the 
end of the square, dragging the poor creature after him. She 
made no resistance, but followed mechanically. Neither spoke 
a word. The flock of spectators, in a paroxysm of joy, followed 
with their jokes. The deepest misery, an opportunity for 

When they reached the Bureau of Police, which was a low 
hall warmed by a stove, and guarded by a sentinel, with a 

Fantine ^83 

grated window looking on the street, Javert opened the door, 
entered with Fantine, and closed the door behind him, to the 
great disappointment of the curious crowd who stood upon 
tiptoe and stretched their necks before the dirty window of the 
guard-house, in their endeavours to see. Curiosity is a kind 
of glutton. To see is to devour. 

On entering Fantine crouched down in a corner motionless 
and silent, like a frightened dog. 

The sergeant of the guard placed a lighted candle on the 
table. Javert sat down, drew from his pocket a sheet of 
stamped paper, and began to write. 

These women are placed by our laws completely under the 
discretion of the police. They do what they will with them, 
punish them as they please, and confiscate at will those two sad 
things which they call their industry and their liberty. Javert 
was impassible; his grave face betrayed no emotion. He was, 
however, engaged in serious and earnest consideration. It was 
one of those moments in which he exercised without restraint, 
but with all the scruples of a strict conscience, his formidable 
discretionary power. At this moment he felt that his police- 
man's stool was a bench of justice. He was conducting a trial. 
He was trying and condemning. He called all the ideas of which 
his mind was capable around the grand thing that he was doing. 
The more he examined the conduct of this girl, the more he 
revolted at it. It was clear that he had seen a crime com- 
mitted. He had seen, there in the street, society represented 
by a property holder and an elector, insulted and attacked by 
a creature who was an outlaw and an outcast. A prostitute 
had assaulted a citizen. He, Javert, had seen that himself. 
He wrote in silence. 

When he had finished, he signed his name, folded the paper, 
and handed it to the sergeant of the guard, saying: " Take 
three men, and carry this girl to jail." Then turning to Fantine; 
" You are in for six months." 

The hapless woman shuddered. 

"Six months! six months in prison!" cried she. "Six 
months to earn seven sous a day! but what will become of 
Cosette! my daughter! my daughter! Why, I still owe more 
than a hundred francs to the Thenardiers, Monsieur Inspector, 
do you know that? " 

She dragged herself along on the floor, dirted by the muddy 
boots of all these men, without rising, clasping her hands, and 
moving rapidly on her knees. 


Lcs Miserables 

" Monsieur Javert," said she, " I beg your pity. I assure 
you that I was not in the wrong. If you had seen the beginning, 
you would have seen. I swear to you by the good God that I 
was not in the wrong. That gentleman, whom I do not know, 
threw snow in my back. Have they the right to throw snow 
into our backs when we are going along quietly like that without 
doing any harm to anybody? That made me wild. I am not 
very well, you see ! and then he had already been saying things 
to me for some time. ' You are homely ! ' ' You have no 
teeth ! ' I know too well that I have lost my teeth. I did not 
do anything; I thought: ' He is a gentleman who is amusing 
himself.' I was not immodest with him, I did not speak to 
him. It was then that he threw the snow at me. Monsieur 
Javert, my good Monsieur Inspector! was there no one there 
who saw it and can tell you that this is true! I perhaps did 
wrong to get angry. You know, at the first moment, we cannot 
master ourselves. We are excitable. And then, to have some- 
thing so cold thrown into your back when you are not expecting 
it. I did wrong to spoil the gentleman's hat. Why has he 
gone away? I would ask his pardon. Oh! I would beg his 
pardon. Have pity on me now this once, Monsieur Javert. 
Stop, you don't know how it is, in the prisons they only earn 
seven sous; that is not the fault of the government, but they 
earn seven sous, and just think that I have a hundred francs to 
pay, or else they will turn away my little one. my God! I 
cannot have her with me. What I do is so vile ! my Cosette, 

my little angel of the good, blessed Virgin, what will she 
become, poor famished child! I tell you the Thenardiers are 
inn-keepers, boors, they have no consideration. They must 
have money. Do not put me in prison ! Do you see, she is a 
little one that they will put out on the highway, to do what she 
can, in the very heart of winter; you must feel pity for such a 
thing, good Monsieur Javert. If she were older, she could earn 
her living, but she cannot at such an age. I am not a bad 
woman at heart. It is not laziness and appetite that have 
brought me to this; I have drunk brandy, but it was from 
misery. I do not like it, but it stupefies. When I was happier, 
one would only have had to look into my wardrobe to see that 

1 was not a disorderly woman. I had linen, much linen. Have 
pity on me, Monsieur Javert." 

She talked thus, bent double, shaken with sobs, blinded by 
tears, her neck bare, clenching her hands, coughing with a dry 
and short cough, stammering very feebly with an agonised 

Fantine 185 

voice. Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance which trans- 
figures the wretched. At that moment Fantine had again 
become beautiful. At certain instants she stopped and tenderly 
kissed the policeman's coat. She would have softened a heart 
of granite; but you cannot soften a heart of wood. 

" Come/' said Javert, " I have heard you. Haven't you got 
through ? March off at once ! you have your six months ! the 
Eternal Father in person could do nothing for you." 

At those solemn words, The Eternal Father in -person could do 
nothing for you, she understood that her sentence was fixed. 
She sank down murmuring: 


Javert turned his back. 

The soldiers seized her by the arms. 

A few minutes before a man had entered without being 
noticed. He had closed the door, and stood with his back 
against it, and heard the despairing supplication of Fantine. 

When the soldiers put their hands upon the wretched being, 
who would not rise, he stepped forward out of the shadow and 

" One moment, if you please! " 

Javert raised his eyes and recognised Monsieur Madeleine. 
He took off his hat, and bowing with a sort of angry awkwardness : 

" Pardon, Monsieur Mayor " 

This word, Monsieur Mayor, had a strange effect upon 
Fantine. She sprang to her feet at once like a spectre rising 
from the ground, pushed back the soldiers with her arms, 
walked straight to Monsieur Madeleine before they could stop 
her, and gazing at him fixedly, with a wild look, she exclaimed : 

" Ah! it is you then who are Monsieur Mayor! " 

Then she burst out laughing and spit in his face. 

Monsieur Madeleine wiped his face and said : 

" Inspector Javert, set this woman at liberty." 

Javert felt as though he were on the point of losing his senses. 
He experienced, at that moment, blow on blow, and almost 
simultaneously, the most violent emotions that he had known 
in his life. To see a woman of the town spit in the face of a 
mayor was a thing so monstrous that in his most daring sup- 
positions he would have thought it sacrilege to believe it possible. 
On the other hand, deep down in his thought, he dimly brought 
into hideous association what this woman was and what this 
mayor might be, and then he perceived with horror something 
indescribably simple in this prodigious assault. But when he 

i 86 Les Miserables 

saw this mayor, this magistrate, wipe his face quietly and say : 
set this woman at liberty, he was stupefied with amazement; 
thought and speech alike failed him; the sum of possible 
astonishment had been overpassed. He remained speechless. 

The mayor's words were not less strange a blow to Fantine. 
She raised her bare arm and clung to the damper of the stove 
as if she were staggered. Meanwhile she looked all around and 
began to talk in a low voice, as if speaking to herself: 

" At liberty ! they let me go ! I am not to go to prison for 
six months! Who was it said that? It is not possible that 
anybody said that. I misunderstood. That cannot be this 
monster of a mayor! Was it you, my good Monsieur Javert, 
who told them to set me at liberty? Oh! look now! I will 
tell you and you will let me go. This monster of a mayor, this 
old whelp of a mayor, he is the cause of all this. Think of it, 
Monsieur Javert, he turned me away! on account of a parcel 
of beggars who told stories in the workshop. Was not that 
horrible ! To turn away a poor girl who does her work honestly. 
Since that I could not earn enough, and all the wretchedness 
has come. To begin with, there is a change that you gentlemen 
of the police ought to make that is, to stop prison contractors 
from wronging poor people. I will tell you how it is; listen. 
You earn twelve sous at shirt making, that falls to nine sous, 
not enough to live. Then we must do what we can. For me, 
I had my little Cosette, and I had to be a bad woman. You 
see now that it is this beggar of a mayor who has done all this, 
and then, I did stamp on the hat of this gentleman in front of 
the officers' cafe. But he, he had spoiled my whole dress with 
the snow. We women, we have only one silk dress, for evening. 
See, you, I have never meant to do wrong, in truth, Monsieur 
Javert, and I see everywhere much worse women than I am 
who are much more fortunate. Oh, Monsieur Javert, it is you 
who said that they must let me go, is it not? Go and inquire, 
speak to my landlord; I pay my rent, and he will surely tell 
you that I am honest. Oh dear, I beg your pardon, I have 
touched I did not know it the damper of the stove, and it 

Monsieur Madeleine listened with profound attention. While 
she was talking, he had fumbled in his waistcoat, had taken out 
his purse and opened it. It was empty. He had put it back 
into his pocket. He said to Fantine : 

" How much did you say that you owed? " 

Fantine, who had only looked at Javert, turned towards him: 

Famine 187 

" Who said anything to you ? " 

Then addressing herself to the soldiers: 

" Say now, did vou see how I spit in his face? Oh ! you old 
scoundrel of a mayor, you come here to frighten me, but I am 
not afraid of you. I am afraid of Monsieur Javert. I am afraid 
of my good Monsieur Javert! " 

As she said this she turned again towards the inspector: 

" Now, you see, Monsieur Inspector, you must be just. I 
know that you are just, Monsieur Inspector; in fact, it is very 
simple, a man-jvho jocosely throws a little snow into a woman's 
back, that makes them laugh, the officers, they must divert 
themselves with something, and we poor things are only for 
their amusement. And then, you, you come, you are obliged 
to keep order, you arrest the woman who has done wrong, but 
on reflection, as you are good, you tell them to set me at liberty, 
that is for my little one, because six months in prison, that 
would prevent my supporting my child. Only never come back 
again, wretch! Oh! I will never come back again, Monsieur 
Javert! They may do anything they like with me now, I will 
not stir. Only, to-day, you see, I cried out because that hurt 
me. I did not in the least expect that snow from that gentle- 
man, and then, I have told you, I am not very well, I cough, I 
have something in my chest like a ball which burns me, and the 
doctor tells me: ' be careful.' Stop, feel, give my your hand, 
don't be afraid, here it is." 

She wept no more; her voice was caressing; she placed 
Javert's great coarse hand upon her white and delicate chest, 
and looked at him smiling. 

Suddenly she hastily adjusted the disorder of her garments, 
smoothed down the folds of her dress, which, in dragging herself 
about, had been raised almost as high as her knees, and walked 
towards the door, saying in an undertone to the soldiers, with 
a friendly nod of the head : 

" Boys, Monsieur the Inspector said that you must release 
me; I am going." 

She put her hand upon the latch. One more step and she 
would be in the street. 

Javert until that moment had remained standing, motionless, 
his eyes fixed on the ground, looking, in the midst of the scene, 
like a statue which was waiting to be placed in position. 

The sound of the latch roused him. He raised his head with 
an expression of sovereign authority, an expression always the 
more frightful in proportion as power is vested in beings of 

1 88 Les Miserables 

lower grade; ferocious in the wild beast, atrocious in the 
undeveloped man. 

" Sergeant," exclaimed he, " don't you see that this vagabond 
is going off? Who told you to let her go? " 

" I," said Madeleine. 

At the words of Javert, Fantine had trembled and dropped 
the latch, as a thief who is caught, drops what he has stolen. 
When Madeleine spoke, she turned, and from that moment, 
without saying a word, without even daring to breathe freely, 
she looked by turns from Madeleine to Javert and from Javert 
to Madeleine, as the one or the other was speaking. 

It was clear that Javert must have been, as they say, " thrown 
off his balance," or he would not have allowed himself to 
address the sergeant as he did, after the direction of the mayor 
to set Fantine at liberty. Had he forgotten the presence of 
the mayor ? Had he finally decided within himself that it was 
impossible for " an authority " to give such an order, and that 
very certainly the mayor must have said one thing when he 
meant another? Or, in view of the enormities which he had 
witnessed for the last two hours, did he say to himself that it 
was necessary to revert to extreme measures, that it was neces- 
sary for the little to make itself great, for the detective to 
transform himself into a magistrate, for the policeman to 
become a judge, and that in this fearful extremity, order, law, 
morality, government, society as a whole, were personified in 
him, Javert? 

However this might be, when Monsieur Madeleine pronounced 
that / which we have just heard, the inspector of police, Javert, 
turned towards the mayor, pale, cold, with blue lips, a desperate 
look, his whole body agitated with an imperceptible tremor, 
and, an unheard-of thing, said to him, with a downcast look, 
but a firm voice : 

" Monsieur Mayor, that cannot be done." 

" Why? " said Monsieur Madeleine. 

" This wretched woman has insulted a citizen." 

" Inspector Javert," replied Monsieur Madeleine, in a con 
ciliating and calm tone, " listen. You are an honest man, and 
I have no objection to explain myself to you. The truth is 
this. I was passing through the square when you arrested this 
woman; there was a crowd still there; I learned the circum- 
stances; I know all about it; it is the citizen who was in the 
wrong, and who, by a faithful police, would have been arrested." 

Javert went on: 

Fantine 189 

" This wretch has just insulted Monsieur the Mayor." 

" That concerns me/' said Monsieur Madeleine. " The insult 
to me rests with myself, perhaps. I can do what I please 
about it." 

" I beg Monsieur the Mayor's pardon. The insult rests not 
with him, it rests with justice." 

" Inspector Javert," replied Monsieur Madeleine, " the 
highest justice is conscience. I have heard this woman. I 
know what I am doing." 

" And for my part, Monsieur Mayor, I do not know what I 
am seeing." 

" Then content yourself with obeying." 

" I obey my duty. My duty requires that this woman spend 
six months in prison." 

Monsieur Madeleine answered mildly: 

" Listen to this. She shall not a day." 

At these decisive words, Javert had the boldness to look the 
mayor in the eye, and said, but still in a tone of profound 
respect : 

" I am very sorry to resist Monsieur the Mayor; it is the 
first time in my life, but he will deign to permit me to observe 
that I am within the limits of my own authority. I will speak, 
since the mayor desires it, on the matter of the citizen. I was 
there. This girl fell upon Monsieur Bamatabois, who is an 
elector and the owner of that fine house with a balcony, that 
stands at the corner of the esplanade, three stories high, and all 
of hewn stone. Indeed, there are some things in this world 
which must be considered. However that may be, Monsieur 
Mayor, this matter belongs to the police of the street; that 
concerns me, and I detain the woman Fantine." 

At this Monsieur Madeleine folded his arms and said in a 
severe tone which nobody in the city had ever yet heard : 

" The matter of which you speak belongs to the municipal 
police. By the terms of articles nine, eleven, fifteen, and sixty- 
six of the code of criminal law, I am the judge of it. I order 
that this woman be set at liberty." 

Javert endeavoured to make a last attempt^ 

" But, Monsieur Mayor " 

" I refer you to article eighty-one of the law of December 13th, 
1799, upon illegal imprisonment." 

" Monsieur Mayor, permit " 

" Not another word." 

" However " 

190 Les Miserables 

" Retire," said Monsieur Madeleine. 

Javert received the blow, standing in front, and with open 
breast like a Russian soldier. He bowed to the ground before 
the mayor, and went out. 

Fantine stood by the door and looked at him with stupor as 
he passed before her. 

Meanwhile she also was the subject of a strange revolution. 
She had seen herself somehow disputed about by two opposing 
powers. She had seen struggling before her very eyes two men 
who held in their hands her liberty, her life, her soul, her child; 
one of these men was drawing her to the side of darkness, the 
other was leading her towards the light. In this contest, seen 
with distortion through the magnifying power of fright, these 
two men had appeared to her like two giants ; one spoke as her 
demon, the other as her good angel. The angel had vanquished 
the demon, and the thought of it made her shudder from head 
to foot; this angel, this deliverer, was precisely the man whom 
she abhorred, this mayor whom she had so long considered as 
the author of all her woes, this Madeleine! and at the very 
moment when she had insulted him in a hideous fashion, he 
had saved her ! Had she then been deceived ? Ought she then 
to change her whole heart? She did not know, she trembled. 
She listened with dismay, she looked around with alarm, and 
at each word that Monsieur Madeleine uttered, she felt the 
fearful darkness of her hatred melt within and flow away, while 
there was born in her heart an indescribable and unspeakable 
warmth of joy, of confidence, and of love. 

When Javert was gone, Monsieur Madeleine turned towards 
her, and said to her, speaking slowly and with difficulty, like a 
man who is struggling that he may not weep: 

" I have heard you. I knew nothing of what you have said. 
I believe that it is true. I did not even know that you had 
left my workshop. Why did you not apply to me? But now: 
I will pay your debts, I will have your child come to you, or 
you shall go to her. You shall live here, at Paris, or where you 
will. I take charge of your child and you. You shall do no 
more work, if you do not wish to. I will give you all the money 
that you need. You shall again become honest in again becom- 
ing happy. More than that, listen. I declare to you from this 
moment, if all is as you say, and I do not doubt it, that you 
have never ceased to be virtuous and holy before God. Oh, 
poor woman ! " 

This was more than poor Fantine could bear. To have 



Cosette! to leave this infamous life! to live free, rich, happy, 
honest, with Cosette! to see suddenly spring up in the midst 
of her misery all these realities of paradise ! She looked as if 
she were stupefied at the man who was speaking to her, and 
could only pour out two or three sobs : "Oh! oh! oh!" Her 
limbs gave way, she threw herself on her knees before Monsieur 
Madeleine, and, before he could prevent it, he felt that she had 
seized his hand and carried it to her lips. 
Then she fainted. 


MONSIEUR MADELEINE had Fantine taken to the infirmary, 
which was in his own house. He confided her to the sisters, 
who put her to bed. A violent fever came on, and she passed 
a part of the night in delirious ravings. Finally, she fell asleep. 

Towards noon the following day, Fantine awoke. She heard 
a breathing near her bed, drew aside the curtain, and saw 
Monsieur Madeleine standing gazing at something above his 
head. His look was full of compassionate and supplicating 
agony. She followed its direction, and saw that it was fixed 
upon a'crucifix nailed against the wall. 

From that moment Monsieur Madeleine was transfigured in 
the eyes of Fantine; he seemed to her clothed upon with light. 
He was absorbed in a kind of prayer. She gazed at him for a 
long while without daring to interrupt him; at last she said 
timidly : 

" What are you doing ? " 

Monsieur Madeleine had been in that place for an hour waiting 
for Fantine to awake. He took her hand, felt her pulse, and 

" How do you feel? " 

" Very well. I have slept," she said. " I think I am getting 
better this will be nothing." 

Then he said, answering the question she had first asked him, 
as if she had just asked it: 

" I was praying to the martyr who is on high." 

And in his thought he added: " For the martyr who is here 

Monsieur Madeleine had passed the night and morning in 
informing himself about Fantine. He knew all now, he had 
learned, even in all its poignant details, the history of Fantine. 

He went on: 

" You have suffered greatly, poor mother. Oh ! do not 

Fantine 193 

lament, you have now the portion of the elect. It is in this way 
that mortals become angels. It is not their fault; they do not 
know how to set about it otherwise. This hell from which you 
have come out is the first step towards Heaven. We must begin 
by that." 

He sighed deeply; but she smiled with this sublime smile 
from which two teeth were gone. 

That same night, Javert wrote a letter. Next morning he 

carried this letter himself to the post-office of M sur M . 

It was directed to Paris and bore this address: " To Monsieur 
Chabouillet, Secretary of Monsieur the Prefect of Police." 

As the affair of the Bureau of Police had been noised about, 
the postmistress and some others who saw the letter before it 
was sent, and who recognised Javert's handwriting in the 
address, thought he was sending in his resignation. Monsieur 
Madeleine wrote immediately to the Thenardiers. Fantine 
owed them a hundred and twenty francs. He sent them three 
hundred francs, telling them to pay themselves out of it, and 

bring the child at once to M sur M , where her mother, 

who was sick, wanted her. 

This astonished Thenardier. 

" The Devil ! " he said to his wife, " we won't let go of the 
child. It may be that this lark will become a milch cow. I 
guess some silly fellow had been smitten by the mother." 

He replied by a bill of five hundred and some odd francs care- 
fully drawn up. In this bill figured two incontestable items for 
upwards of three hundred francs, one of a physician and the 
other of an apothecary who had attended and supplied Eponine 
and Azelma during two long illnesses. Cosette, as we have said, 
had not been ill. This was only a slight substitution of names. 
Thenardier wrote at the bottom of the bill: "Received on 
account three hundred francs." 

Monsieur Madeleine immediately sent three hundred francs 
more, and wrote: " Make haste to bring Cosette." 

" Christy 1 " said Thenardier, " we won't let go of the girl." 

Meanwhile Fantine had not recovered. She still remained 
in the infirmary. 

It was not without some repugnance, at first, that the sisters 
received and cared for " this girl." He who has seen the bas- 
reliefs at Rheims will recall the distension of the lower lip of the 
wise virgins beholding the foolish virgins. This ancient con- 
tempt of vestals for less fortunate women is one of the deepest 
instincts of womanly dignity; the sisters had experienced it 

I G 

194 Les Miserables 

with the intensification of Religion. But in a few days Fantine 
had disarmed them. The motherly tenderness within her, with 
her soft and touching words, moved them. One day the sisters 
heard her say in her delirium: " I have been a sinner, but when 
I shall have my child with me, that will mean that God has 
pardoned me. While I was bad I would not have had my 
Cosette with me; I could not have borne her sad and surprised 
looks. It was for her I sinned, and that is why God forgives 
me. I shall feel this benediction when Cosette comes. I shall 
gaze upon her; the sight of her innocence will do me good. She 
knows nothing of it all. She is an angel, you see, my sisters. 
At her age the wings have not yet fallen." 

Monsieur Madeleine came to see her twice a day, and at each 
visit she asked him: 

" Shall I see my Cosette soon? " 

He answered : 

" Perhaps to-morrow. I expect her every moment." 

And the mother's pale face would brighten. 

" Ah ! " she would say, " how happy I shall be." 

We have just said she did not recover: on the contrary, her 
condition seemed to become worse from week to week. That 
handful of snow applied to the naked skin between her shoulder- 
blades, had caused a sudden check of perspiration, in conse- 
quence of which the disease, which had been forming for some 
years, at last attacked her violently. They were just at that 
time beginning in the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases 
to follow the fine theory of Laennec. The doctor sounded her 
lungs and shook his head. 

Monsieur Madeleine said to him : 

" Well? " 

" Has she not a child she is anxious to see? " said the doctor. 

" Yes." 

" Well then, make haste to bring her." 

Monsieur Madeleine gave a shudder. 

Fantine asked him: " What did the doctor say? " 

Monsieur Madeleine tried to smile. 

" He told us to bring your child at once. That will restore 
your health." 

" Oh! " she cried, " he is right. But what is the matter with 
these Thenardiers that they keep my Cosette from me? Oh! 
She is coming! Here at last I see happiness near me." 

The Thenardiers, however, did not " let go of the child; " 
they gave a hundred bad reasons. Cosette was too delicate to 

Fantine 195 

travel in the winter time, and then there were a number of little 
petty debts, of which they were collecting the bills, etc., etc. 

" I will send somebody for Cosette," said Monsieur Madeleine, 
" if necessary, I will go myself." 

He wrote at Fantine's dictation this letter, which she signed. 

" Monsieur Thenardier: 

" You will deliver Cosette to the bearer. 

" He will settle all small debts. 

" I have the honour to salute you with consideration. 


In the meanwhile a serious matter intervened. In vain we 
chisel, as best we can, the mysterious block of which our life is 
made, the black vein of destiny reappears continually. 



ONE morning Monsieur Madeleine was in his office arranging for 
some pressing business of the mayoralty, in case he should decide 
to go to Montfermeil himself, when he was informed that Javert, 
the inspector of police, wished to speak with him. On hearing 
this name spoken, Monsieur Madeleine could not repress a dis- 
agreeable impression. Since the affair of the Bureau of Police, 
Javert had more than ever avoided him, and Monsieur Made- 
leine had not seen him at all. 

" Let him come in," said he. 

Javert entered. 

Monsieur Madeleine remained seated near the fire, looking 
over a bundle of papers upon which he was making notes, and 
which contained the returns of the police patrol. He did not 
disturb himself at all for Javert: he could not but think of poor 
Fantine, and it was fitting that he should receive him very 

Javert respectfully saluted the mayor, who had his back 
towards him. The mayor did not look up, but continued to 
make notes on the papers. 

Javert advanced a few steps, and paused without breaking 

A physiognomist, had he been familiar with Javert's face, 
had he made a study for years of this savage in the service of 
civilisation, this odd mixture of the Roman, Spartan, monk, 


Les Miserables 

and corporal, this spy, incapable of a lie, this virgin detective 
a physiognomist, had he known his secret and inveterate aver- 
sion for Monsieur Madeleine, his contest with the mayor on the 
subject of Fan tine, and had he seen Javert at that moment, 
would have said: " What has happened to him? " 

It was evident to any one who had known this conscientious, 
straight-forward, clear, sincere, upright, austere, fierce man, 
that Javert had suffered some great interior commotion. 
There was nothing in his mind that was not depicted on his face. 
He was, like all violent people, subject to sudden changes. 
Never had his face been stranger or more startling. On enter- 
ing, he had bowed before Monsieur Madeleine with a look in 
which was neither rancour, anger, nor defiance; he paused 
some steps behind the mayor's chair, and was now standing in a 
soldierly attitude with the natural, cold rudeness of a man who 
was never kind, but has always been patient; he waited with- 
out speaking a word or making a motion, in genuine humility 
and tranquil resignation, until it should please Monsieur the 
Mayor to turn towards him, calm, serious, hat in hand, and eyes 
cast down with an expression between that of a soldier before 
his officer and a prisoner before his judge. All the feeling as well 
as all the remembrances which we should have expected him 
to have, disappeared. Nothing was left upon this face, simple 
and impenetrable as granite, except a gloomy sadness. His 
whole person expressed abasement and firmness, an indescrib- 
ably courageous dejection. 

At last the mayor laid down his pen and turned partly round : 

" Well, what is it? What is the matter, Javert? " 

Javert remained silent a moment as if collecting himself; 
then raised his voice with a sad solemnity which did not, how- 
ever, exclude simplicity : " There has been a criminal act com- 
mitted, Monsieur Mayor." 

"What act?" 

" An inferior agent of the government has been wanting in 
respect to a magistrate, in the gravest manner. I come, as is 
my duty, to bring the fact to your knowledge." 

Who is this agent? " asked Monsieur Madeleine. 

I," said Javert. 



' And who is the magistrate who has to complain of this 
agent? " 

" You, Monsieur Mayor." 

Fantine 197 

Monsieur Madeleine straightened himself in his chair. Javert 
continued, with serious looks and eyes still cast down. 

" Monsieur Mayor, I come to ask you to be so kind as to make 
charges and procure my dismissal." 

Monsieur Madeleine, amazed, opened his mouth. Javert 
interrupted him : 

" You will say that I might tender my resignation, but that 
b not enough. To resign is honourable; I have done wrong. 
I ought to be punished. I must be dismissed." 

And after a pause he added: 

" Monsieur Mayor, you were severe to me the other day, 
unjustly. Be justly so to-day." 

" Ah, indeed ! why? What is all this nonsense? What does 
it all mean? What is the criminal act committed by you 
against me? What have you done to me? How have you 
wronged me? You accuse yourself: do you wish to be 
relieved ? " 

" Dismissed," said Javert. 

" Dismissed it is then. It is very strange^ I do not under- 
stand you." 

" You will understand, Monsieur Mayor," Javert sighed 
deeply, and continued sadly and coldly: 

" Monsieur Mayor, six weeks ago, after that scene about that 
girl, I was enraged and I denounced you." 

" Denounced me? " 

" To the Prefecture of Police at Paris." 

Monsieur Madeleine, who did not laugh much oftener than 
Javert, began to laugh : 

" As a mayor having encroached upon the police ? " 

" As a former convict." 

The mayor became livid. 

Javert, who had not raised his eyes, continued : 

" I believed it. For a long while I had had suspicions. A 
resemblance, information you obtained at Faverolles, your 
immense strength; the affair of old Fauchelevent; your skill 
as a marksman; your leg which drags a little and in fact I 
don't know what other stupidities; but at last I took you for 
a man named Jean Valjean." 

" Named what? How did you call that name? " 

" Jean Valjean. He was a convict I saw twenty years ago, 
when I was adjutant of the galley guard at Toulon. After 
leaving the galleys this Valjean, it appears, robbed a bishop's 
palace, then he committed another robbery with weapons in- 

198 Les Miserables 

his hands, in a highway, on a little Savoyard. For eight years 
his whereabouts have been unknown, and search has been made 
for him. I fancied in short, I have done this thing. Anger 
determined me, and I denounced you to the prefect." 

M. Madeleine, who had taken up the file of papers agan, a 
few moments before, said with a tone of perfect indifference: 
" And what answer did you get? " 

' That I was crazy." 


' Well; they were right." 

1 It is fortunate that you think so ! " 

' It must be so, for the real Jean Valjean has been found." 

The paper that M. Madeleine held fell from his hand; he 
raised his head, looked steadily at Javert, and said in an in- 
expressible tone: 


Javert continued: 

" I will tell you how it is, Monsieur Mayor. There was, it 
appears, in the country, near Ailly-le-Haut Clocher, a simple sort 
of fellow who was called Father Champmathieu. He was very 
poor. Nobody paid any attention to him. Such folks live, one 
hardly knows how. Finally, this last fall, Father Champ- 
mathieu was arrested for stealing cider apples from , but 

that is of no consequence. There was a theft, a wall scaled, 
branches of trees broken. Our Champmathieu was arrested; 
he had even then a branch of an apple-tree in his hand. The 
rogue was caged. So far, it was nothing more than a peniten- 
tiary matter. But here comes in the hand of Providence. The 
jail being in a bad condition, the police justice thought it best 
to take him to Arras, where the prison of the department is. 
In this prison at Arras there was a former convict named 
Brevet, who is there for some trifle, and who, for his good 
conduct, has been made turnkey. No sooner was Champ- 
mathieu set down, than Brevet cried out : ' Ha, ha ! I know 
that man. He is a fagot.' l 

" ' Look up here, my good man. You are Jean Valjean.' 
* Jean Valjean, who is Jean Valjean? ' Champmathieu plays off 
the astonished. ' Don't play ignorance,' said Brevet. ' You 
are Jean Valjean; you were in the galleys at Toulon. It is 
twenty years ago. We were there together.' Champmathieu 
denied it all. Faith 1 you understand; they fathomed it. The 
case was worked up and this was what they found. This 
1 Former convict. 

Fantine 199 

Champmathieu thirty years ago was a pruner in divers places, 
particularly in Faverolles. There we lose trace of him. A long 
time afterwards we find him at Auvergne ; then at Paris, where 
he is said to have been a wheelwright and to have had a daughter 
a washerwoman, but that is not proven, and finally in this 
part of the country. Now before going to the galleys for 
burglary, what was Jean Valjean? A pruner. Where? At 
Faverolles. Another fact. This Valjean's baptismal name was 
Jean ; his mother's family name, Mathieu. Nothing could be 
more natural, on leaving the galleys, than to take his mother's 
name to disguise himself; then he would be called Jean Mathieu. 
He goes to Auvergne, the pronunciation of that region would 
make Chan of Jean they would call him Chan Mathieu. Our 
man adopts it, and now you have him transformed into Champ- 
mathieu. You follow me, do you not? Search has been made 
at Faverolles; the family of Jean Valjean are no longer there. 
Nobody knows where they are. You know in such classes 
these disappearances of families often occur. You search, but 
can find nothing. Such people, when they are not mud, are dust. 
And then as the commencement of this story dates back thirty 
years, there is nobody now at Faverolles who knew Jean Valjean. 
But search has been made at Toulon. Besides Brevet there 
are only two convicts who have seen Jean Valjean. They are 
convicts for life; their names are Cochepaille and Chenildieu. 
These men were brought from the galleys and confronted with 
the pretended Champmathieu. They did not hesitate. To 
them as well as to Brevet it was Jean Valjean. Same age; 
fifty-four years old; same height; same appearance, in fact 
the same man; it is he. At this time it was that I sent my 
denunciation to the Prefecture at Paris. They replied that I 
was out of my mind, and that Jean Valjean was at Arras in the 
hands of justice. You may imagine how that astonished me; 
I who believed that I had here the same Jean Valjean. I wrote 
to the justice; he sent for me and brought Champmathieu 
before me." 

" Well," interrupted Monsieur Madeleine. 

Javert replied, with an incorruptible and sad face: 

" Monsieur Mayor, truth is truth. I am sorry for it, but that 
man is Jean Valjean. I recognised him also." 

Monsieur Madeleine said in a very low voice: 

" Are you sure? " 

Javert began to laugh with the suppressed laugh which 
indicates profound conviction. 

2 co Les Miserables 

"H'm, sure!" 

He remained a moment in thought, mechanically taking up 
pinches of the powdered wood used to dry ink, from the box on 
the table, and then added : 

" And now that I see the real Jean Valjean, I do not under- 
stand how I ever could have believed anything else. I beg 
your pardon, Monsieur Mayor." 

In uttering these serious and supplicating words to him, who 
six weeks before had humiliated him before the entire guard, 
and had said " Retire! " Javert, this haughty man, was uncon- 
sciously full of simplicity and dignity. Monsieur Madeleine 
answered his request, by this abrupt question: 

" And what did the man say ? " 

" Oh, bless me ! Monsieur Mayor, the affair is a bad one. If 
it is Jean Valjean, it is a second offence. To climb a wall, break 
a branch, and take apples, for a child is only a trespass; for a 
man it is a misdemeanour; for a convict it is a crime. Scaling 
a wall and theft includes everything. It is not a case for a 
police court, but for the assizes. It is not a few days' imprison- 
ment, but the galleys for life. And then there is the affair of 
the little Savoyard, who I hope will be found. The devil 1 
There is something to struggle against, is there not? There 
would be for anybody but Jean Valjean. But Jean Valjean is a 
sly fellow. And that is just where I recognise him. Anybody 
else would know that he was in a hot place, and would rave and 
cry out, as the tea-kettle sings on the fire; he would say that 
he was not Jean Valjean, et cetera. But this man pretends not 
to understand, he says : ' I am Champmathieu : I have no 
more to say.' He puts on an appearance of astonishment; he 
plays the brute. Oh, the rascal is cunning! But it is all the 
same, there is the evidence. Four persons have recognised him, 
and the old villain will be condemned. It has been taken to 
the assizes at Arras. I am going to testify. I have been 

Monsieur Madeleine had turned again to his desk, and was 
quietly looking over his papers, reading and writing alternately, 
like a man pressed with business. He turned again towards 
Javert : 

" That will do, Javert. Indeed all these details interest me 
very little. We are wasting time, and we have urgent business, 
Javert; go at once to the house of the good woman Buseaupied, 
who sells herbs at the corner of Rue Saint Saulve; tell her to 
make her complaint against the carman Pierre Chesnelong. 

Fan tine 201 

He is a brutal fellow, he almost crushed this woman and her 
child. He must be punished. Then you will go to Monsieur 
Charcellay, Rue Montre-de-Champigny. He complains that 
the gutter of the next house when it rains throws water upon 
his house, and is undermining the foundation. Then you will 
inquire into the offences that have been reported to me, at the 
widow Doris's, Rue Guibourg, and Madame Ren6e le Bosse's, 
Rue du Garraud Blanc, and make out reports. But I am 
giving you too much to do. Did you not tell me you were going 
to Arras in eight or ten days on this matter? " 

" Sooner than that, Monsieur Mayor." 

" What day then? " 

" I think I told monsieur that the case would be tried to- 
morrow, and that I should leave by the diligence to-night." 

Monsieur Madeleine made an imperceptible motion. 

" And how long will the matter last? " 

" One day at longest. Sentence will be pronounced at latest 
to-morrow evening. But I shall not wait for the sentence, 
which is certain ; as soon as my testimony is given I shall return 

" Very well," said Monsieur Madeleine. 

And he dismissed him with a wave of his hand. 

Javert did not go. 

" Your pardon, monsieur," said he. 

" What more is there? " asked Monsieur Madeleine. 

" Monsieur Mayor, there is one thing more to which I desire 
to call your attention." 

" What is it? " 

" It is that I ought to be dismissed." 

Monsieur Madeleine arose. 

" Javert, you are a man of honour and I esteem you. You 
exaggerate your fault. Besides, this is an offence which con- 
cerns me. You are worthy of promotion rather than disgrace. 
I desire you to keep your place." 

Javert looked at Monsieur Madeleine with his calm eyes, 
in whose depths it seemed that one beheld his conscience, 
unenlightened, but stern and pure, and said in a tranquil 
voice : 

" Monsieur Mayor, I cannot agree to that." 

" I repeat," said Monsieur Madeleine, " that this matter 
concerns me." 

But Javert, with his one idea, continued : 

" As to exaggerating, I do not exaggerate. This is the way 

202 Les Miserables 

I reason. I have unjustly suspected you. That is nothing. 
It is our province to suspect, although it may be an abuse of 
our right to suspect our superiors. But without proofs and in a 
fit of anger, with revenge as my aim, I denounced you as a 
convict you, a respectable man, a mayor, and a magistrate. 
This is a serious matter, very serious. I have committed an 
offence against authority in your person, I who am the agent 
of authority. If one of my subordinates had done what I have, 
I would have pronounced him unworthy of the service, and sent 
him away. Well, listen a moment, Monsieur Mayor; I have 
often been severe in my life towards others. It was just. I 
did right. Now if I were not severe towards myself, all 
I have justly done would become injustice. Should I spare 
myself more than others? No. What! if I should be prompt 
only to punish others and not myself, I should be a wretch 
indeed ! They who say : ' That blackguard, Javert,' would be 
right. Monsieur Mayor, I do not wish you to treat me with 
kindness. Your kindness, when it was for others, enraged me; 
I do not wish it for myself. That kindness which consists in 
defending a woman of the town against a citizen, a police agent 
against the mayor, the inferior against the superior, that is 
what I call ill-judged kindness. Such kindness disorganises 
society. Good God, it is easy to be kind, the difficulty is to be 
just. Had you been what I thought, I should not have been 
kind to you; not I. You would have seen, Monsieur Mayor. I 
ought to treat myself as I would treat anybody else. When I 
put down malefactors, when I rigorously brought up offenders, 
I often said to myself: ' You, if you ever trip; if ever I catch 
you doing wrong, look out ! ' I have tripped, I have caught 
myself doing wrong. So much the worse! I must be sent 
away, broken, dismissed, that is right. I have hands: I can 
till the ground. It is all the same to me. Monsieur Mayor, 
the good of the service demands an example. I simply ask the 
dismissal of Inspector Javert." 

All this was said in a tone of proud humility, a desperate and 
resolute tone, which gave an indescribably whimsical grandeur 
to this oddly honest man. 

" We will see," said Monsieur Madeleine. 

And he held out his hand to him. 

Javert started back, and said fiercely: 

" Pardon, Monsieur Mayor, that should not be. A mayor 
does not give his hand to a spy." 

He added between his teeth: 

Fantinc 203 

" Spy, yes; from the moment I abused the power of my 
position, I have been nothing better than a spy I " 

Then he bowed profoundly, and went towards the door. 

There he turned around: his eyes yet downcast. 

" Monsieur Mayor, I will continue in the service until I am 

He went out. Monsieur Madeleine sat musing, listening to 
his firm and resolute step as it died away along the corridor. 



THE events which follow were never all known at M sur 

M . But the few which did leak out have left such memories 

in that city, that it would be a serious omission in this book if 
we did not relate them in their minutest details. 

Among these details, the reader will meet with two or three 
improbable circumstances, which we preserve from respect for 
the truth. 

In the afternoon following the visit of Javert, M. Madeleine 
went to see Fantine as usual. 

Before going to Fantine's room, he sent for Sister Simplice. 

The two nuns who attended the infirmary, Lazarists as all 
these Sisters of Charity are, were called Sister Perpetue and 
Sister Simplice. 

Sister Perp6tue was an ordinary village-girl, summarily 
become a Sister of Charity, who entered the service of God as 
she would have entered service anywhere. She was a nun as 
others are cooks. This type is not very rare. The monastic 
orders gladly accept this heavy peasant clay, easily shaped into 
a Capuchine or an Ursuline. Such rustics are useful for the 
coarser duties of devotion. There is no shock in the transition 
from a cowboy to a Carmelite; the one becomes the other with- 
out much labour; the common basis of ignorance of a village 
and a cloister is a ready-made preparation, and puts the rustic 
at once upon an even footing with the monk. Enlarge the smock 
a little and you have a frock. Sister Perpdtue was a stout nun, 
from Marines, near Pontoise, given to patois, psalm-singing 
and muttering, sugaring a nostrum according to the bigotry 
or hypocrisy of the patient, treating invalids harshly, rough 
with the dying, almost throwing them into the face of God, 
belabouring the death agony with angry prayers, bold, honest, 
and florid. 


Fantine 205 

Sister Simplice was white with a waxen clearness. In com- 
parison with Sister Perpetue she was a sacramental taper by the 
side of a tallow candle. St. Vincent de Paul has divinely drawn 
the figure of a Sister of Charity in these admirable words in 
which he unites so much liberty with so much servitude. " Her 
only convent shall be the house of sickness; her only cell, a 
hired lodging; her chapel the parish church; her cloister the 
streets of the city, or the wards of the hospital; her only wall 
obedience; her grate the fear of God ; her veil modesty." This 
ideal was made alive in Sister Simplice. No one could have told 
Sister Simplice's age; she had never been young, and seemed 
as if she never should be old. She was a person we dare not 
say a woman gentle, austere, companionable, cold, and who 
had never told a lie. She was so gentle that she appeared fragile ; 
but on the contrary she was more enduring than granite. She 
touched the unfortunate with charming fingers, delicate and 
pure. There was, so to say, silence in her speech; she said just 
what was necessary, and she had a tone of voice which would 
at the same time have edified a confessional, and enchanted a 
drawing-room. This delicacy accommodated itself to the serge 
dress, finding in its harsh touch a continual reminder of Heaven 
and of God. Let us dwell upon one circumstance. Never to 
have lied, never to have spoken, for any purpose whatever, even 
carelessly, a single word which was not the truth, the sacred 
truth, was the distinctive trait of Sister Simplice; it was the 
mark of her virtue. She was almost celebrated in the congrega- 
tion for this imperturbable veracity. The Abbe Sicard speaks 
of Sister Simplice in a letter to the deaf mute, Massieu. Sincere 
and pure as we may be, we all have the mark of some little lie 
upon our truthfulness. She had none. A little lie, an innocent 
lie, can such a thing exist? To lie is the absolute of evil. To 
lie a little is not possible ; he who lies, lies a whole lie ; lying is 
the very face of the demon. Satan has two names; he is called 
Satan, and he is called the Liar. Such were her thoughts. And 
as she thought, she practised. From this resulted that white- 
ness of which we have spoken, a whiteness that covered with its 
radiance even her lips and her eyes. Her smile was white, her 
look was white. There was not a spider's web, not a speck of 
dust upon the glass of that conscience. When she took the vows 
of St. Vincent de Paul, she had taken the name of Simplice by 
especial choice. Simplice of Sicily, it is well known, is that 
saint who preferred to have both her breasts torn out rather 
than answer, having been born at Syracuse, that she was born 

206 Les Miserables 

at Segesta, a lie which would have saved her. This patron saint 
was fitting for this soul. 

Sister Simplice, on entering the order, had two faults of which 
she corrected herself gradually; she had had a taste for deli- 
cacies, and loved to receive letters. Now she read nothing but 
a prayer-book in large type and in Latin. She did not under- 
stand Latin, but she understood the book. 

The pious woman had conceived an affection for Fantine, 
perceiving in her probably some latent virtue, and had devoted 
herself almost exclusively to her care. 

Monsieur Madeleine took Sister Simplice aside and recom- 
mended Fantine to her with a singular emphasis, which the 
sister remembered at a later day. 

On leaving the Sister, he approached Fantine. 

Fantine awaited each day the appearance of Monsieur Made- 
leine as one awaits a ray of warmth and of joy. She would say 
to the sisters: " I live only when the Mayor is here." 

That day she had more fever. As soon as she saw Monsieur 
Madeleine, she asked him: 

" Cosette? " 

He answered with a smile : 

" Very soon." 

Monsieur Madeleine, while with Fantine, seemed the same as 
usual. Only he stayed an hour instead of half an hour, to the 
great satisfaction of Fantine. He made a thousand charges to 
everybody that the sick woman might want for nothing. It 
was noticed that at one moment his countenance became very 
sombre. But this was explained when it was known that the 
doctor had, bending close to his ear, said to him: "She is 
sinking fast." 

Then he returned to the mayor's office, and the office boy 
saw him examine attentively a road-map of France which hung 
in his room. He made a few figures in pencil upon a piece of 



FROM the mayor's office he went to the outskirts of the city, to 
a Fleming's, Master Scaufflaer, Frenchified into Scaufflaire, who 
kept horses to let and " chaises if desired." 

In order to go to Scaufflaire 's, the nearest way was by a rarely 
frequented street, on which was the parsonage of the parish in 

Fantine 207 

which Monsieur Madeleine lived. The cure was, it was said, a 
worthy and respectable man, and a good counsellor. At the 
moment when Monsieur Madeleine arrived in front of the 
parsonage, there was but one person passing in the street, and 
he remarked this : the mayor, after passing by the cure's house, 
stopped, stood still a moment, then turned back and retraced 
his steps as far as the door of the parsonage, which was a large 
door with an iron knocker. He seized the knocker quickly and 
raised it; then he stopped anew, stood a short time as if in 
thought, and after a few seconds, instead of letting the knocker 
fall smartly, he replaced it gently, and resumed his walk with 
a sort of haste that he had not shown before. 

Monsieur Madeleine found Master Scaufflaire at home busy 
repairing a harness. 

' Master Scaufflaire," he asked, " have you a good horse? " 

' Monsieur Mayor," said the Fleming, " all my horses are 
good. What do you understand by a good horse ? " 

' I understand a horse that can go twenty leagues in a day." 

' The devil! " said the Fleming, " twenty leagues! " 

' Yes." 

' Before a chaise ? " 

' Yes." 

' And how long will he rest after the journey? " 

' He must be able to start again the next day in case of need." 

' To do the same thing again ? " 

' Yes." 

' The devil ! and it is twenty leagues ? " 

Monsieur Madeleine drew from his pocket the paper on which 
he had pencilled the figures. He showed them to the Fleming. 
They were the figures, 5, 6, 8. 

" You see," said he. " Total, nineteen and a half, that is to 
say, twenty leagues." 

" Monsieur Mayor," resumed the Fleming, " I have just what 
you want. My little white horse, you must have seen him 
sometimes passing; he is a little beast from Bas-Boulonnais. 
He is full of fire. They tried at first to make a saddle horse of 
him. Bah ! he kicked, he threw everybody off. They thought 
he was vicious, they didn't know what to do. I bought him. I 
put him before a chaise; Monsieur, that is what he wanted; 
he is as gentle as a girl, he goes like the wind. But, for example, 
it won't do to get on his back. It's not his idea to be a saddle 
horse. Everybody has his peculiar ambition. To draw, but 
not to carry: we must believe that he has said that to himself." 

aoS Les Miserables 

" And he will make the trip ? " 

" Your twenty leagues, all the way at a full trot, and in less 
than eight hours. But there are some conditions." 

" Name them." 

" First, you must let him breathe an hour when you are half 
way; he will eat, and somebody must be by while he eats to 
prevent the tavern boy from stealing his oats; for I have 
noticed that at taverns, oats are oftener drunk by the stable 
boys than eaten by the horses." 

" Somebody shall be there." 

" Secondly is the chaise for Monsieur the Mayor? " 

11 Yes." 

" Monsieur the Mayor knows how to drive? " 

" Yes." 

" Well, Monsieur the Mayor will travel alone and without 
baggage, so as not to overload the horse." 

" Agreed." 

" But Monsieur the Mayor, having no one with him, will be 
obliged to take the trouble of seeing to the oats himself." 

" So said." 

" I must have thirty francs a day, the days he rests included. 
Not a penny less, and the fodder of the beast at the expense of 
Monsieur the Mayor." 

Monsieur Madeleine took three Napoleons from his purse and 
laid them on the table. 

" There is two days, in advance." 

" Fourthly, for such a trip, a chaise would be too heavy; that 
would tire the horse. Monsieur the Mayor must consent to 
travel in a little tilbury that I have." 

" I consent to that." 

" It is light, but it is open." 

" It is all the same to me." 

" Has Monsieur the Mayor reflected that it is winter? " 

Monsieur Madeleine did not answer; the Fleming went on: 

" That it is very cold ? " 

Monsieur Madeleine kept silence. 

Master Scaufflaire continued : 

"That it may rain?" 

Monsieur Madeleine raised his head and said : 

" The horse and the tilbury will be before my door to-morrow 
at half -past four in the morning." 

" That is understood, Monsieur Mayor," answered Scaufflaire, 
then scratching a stain on the top of the table with his thumb 

Fantine 209 

nail, he resumed with that careless air that Flemings so well 
know how to associate with their shrewdness : 

" Why, I have just thought of it ! Monsieur the Mayor has 
not told me where he is going. Where is Monsieur the Mayor 

He had thought of nothing else since the beginning of the 
conversation, but without knowing why, he had not dared to ask 
the question. 

" Has your horse good forelegs? " said Monsieur Madeleine. 

" Yes, Monsieur Mayor. You will hold him up a little going 
downhill. Is there much downhill between here and where you 
are go ing? " 

" Don't forget to be at my door precisely at half-past four in 
the morning," answered Monsieur Madeleine, and he went out. 

The Fleming was left " dumb-founded," as he said himself 
some time afterwards. 

The mayor had been gone two or three minutes, when the 
door again opened ; it was the mayor. 

He had the same impassive and absent-minded air as ever. 

" Monsieur Scaufflaire," said he, " at what sum do you value 
the horse and the tilbury that you furnish me, the one carrying 
the other?" 

" The one drawing the other, Monsieur Mayor/' said the 
Fleming with a loud laugh. 

" As you like. How much ? " 

" Does Monsieur the Mayor wish to buy them ? " 

" No, but at all events I wish to guarantee them to you. On 
my return you can give me back the amount. At how much do 
you value horse and chaise ? " 

" Five hundred francs, Monsieur Mayor! " 

" Here it is." 

Monsieur Madeleine placed a banknote on the table, then 
went out, and this time did not return. 

Master Scaufflaire regretted terribly that he had not said a 
thousand francs. In fact, the horse and tilbury, in the lump, 
were worth a hundred crowns. 

The Fleming called his wife, and related the affair to her. 
Where the deuce could the mayor be going? They talked it 
over. " He is going to Paris," said the wife. " I don't believe 
it," said the husband. Monsieur Madeleine had forgotten the 
paper on which he had marked the figures, and left it on the 
mantel. The Fleming seized it and studied it. Five, six, 
eight and a half? this must mean the relays of the post. He 

2io Lcs Miserables 

turned to his wife: " I have found it out." " How? " " It 
is five leagues from here to Hesdin, six from Hesdin to Saint Pol, 
eight and a half from Saint Pol to Arras. He is going to Arras." 

Meanwhile Monsieur Madeleine had reached home. To 
return from Master Scaufflaire's he had taken a longer road, as 
if the door of the parsonage were a temptation to him, and he 
wished to avoid it. He went up to his room, and shut himself 
in, which was nothing remarkable, for he usually went to bed 
early. However, the janitress of the factory, who was at the 
same time Monsieur Madeleine's only servant, observed that his 
light was out at half-past eight, and she mentioned it to the 
cashier who came in, adding : 

" Is Monsieur the Mayor sick ? I thought that his manner 
was a little singular." 

The cashier occupied a room situated exactly beneath 
Monsieur Madeleine's. He paid no attention to the portress's 
words, went to bed, and went to sleep. Towards midnight he 
suddenly awoke; he had heard, in his sleep, a noise overhead. 
He listened. It was a step that went and came, as if some one 
were walking in the room above. He listened more attentively, 
and recognised Monsieur Madeleine's step. That appeared 
strange to him; ordinarily no noise was made in Monsieur 
Madeleine's room before his hour of rising. A moment after- 
wards, the cashier heard something that sounded like the open- 
ing and shutting of a wardrobe, then a piece of furniture was 
moved, there was another silence, and the step began again. 
The cashier rose up in bed, threw off his drowsiness, looked out, 
and through his window-panes, saw upon an opposite wall the 
ruddy reflection of a lighted window. From the direction of 
the rays, it could only be the window of Monsieur Madeleine's 
chamber. The reflection trembled as if it came rather from a 
bright fire than from a light. The shadow of the sash could not 
be seen, which indicated that the window was wide open. Cold 
as it was, this open window was surprising. The cashier fell 
asleep again. An hour or two afterwards he awoke again. The 
same step, slow and regular, was coming and going constantly 
over his head. 

The reflection continued visible upon the wall, but it was now 
pale and steady like the light from a lamp or a candle. The 
window was still open. 
Let us see what was passing in Monsieur Madeleine's room* 

Famine 2 1 1 



THE reader has doubtless divined that Monsieur Madeleine is 
none other than Jean Valjean. 

We have already looked into the depths of that conscience; 
the time has come to look into them again. We do so not 
without emotion, nor without trembling. There exists nothing 
more terrific than this kind of contemplation. The mind's eye 
can nowhere find anything more dazzling nor more dark than 
in man; it can fix itself upon nothing which is more awful, more 
complex, more mysterious, or more infinite. There is one spec- 
tacle grander than the sea, that is the sky ; there is one spectacle 
grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul. 

To write the poem of the human conscience, were it only of a 
single man, were it only of the most infamous of men, would be 
to swallow up all epics in a superior and final epic. The con- 
science is the chaos of chimeras, of lusts and of temptations, the 
furnace of dreams, the cave of the ideas which are our shame; 
it is the pandemonium of sophisms, the battle-field of the 
passions. At certain hours, penetrate within the livid face of 
a human being who reflects, and look at what lies behind ; look 
into that soul, look into that obscurity. There, beneath the 
external silence, there are combats of giants as in Homer, melees 
of dragons and hydras, and clouds of phantoms as in Milton, 
ghostly labyrinths as in Dante. What a gloom enwraps that 
infinite which each man bears within himself, and by which he 
measures in despair the desires of his will, and the actions of his 

Alighieri arrived one day at an ill-omened door before which 
he hesitated. Here is one also before us, on the threshold of 
which we hesitate. Let us enter notwithstanding. 

We have but little to add to what the reader already knows, 
concerning what had happened to Jean Valjean, since his 
adventure with Petit Gervais. From that moment, we have 
seen, he was another man. What the bishop had desired to do 
with him, that he had executed. It was more than a trans- 
formation it was a transfiguration. 

He succeeded in escaping from sight, sold the bishop's silver, 
keeping only the candlesticks as souvenirs, glided quietly from 
city to city across France, came to M sur M , conceived 

212 Les Miserables 

the idea that we have described, accomplished what we have 
related, gained the point of making himself unassailable and 

inaccessible, and thenceforward, established at M sur M , 

happy to feel his conscience saddened by his past, and the last 
half of his existence giving the lie to the first, he lived peaceable, 
reassured, and hopeful, having but two thoughts: to conceal his 
name, and to sanctify his life ; to escape from men and to return 
to God. 

These two thoughts were associated so closely in his mind, 
that they formed but a single one; they were both equally 
absorbing and imperious, and ruled his slightest actions. Ordin- 
arily they were in harmony in the regulation of the conduct of 
his life; they turned him towards the dark side of life; they 
made him benevolent and simple-hearted; they counselled him 
to the same things. Sometimes, however, there was a conflict 
between them. In such cases, it will be remembered, the man, 

whom all the country around M sur M called Monsieur 

Madeleine, did not waver in sacrificing the first to the second, 
his security to his virtue. Thus, in despite of all reserve and of 
all prudence, he had kept the bishop's candlesticks, worn mourn- 
ing for him, called and questioned all the little Savoyards who 
passed by, gathered information concerning the families at 
Faverolles, and saved the life of old Fauchelevent, in spite of the 
disquieting insinuations of Javert. It would seem, we have 
already remarked, that he thought, following the example of all 
who have been wise, holy, and just, that his highest duty was 
not towards himself. 

But of all these occasions, it must be said, none had ever been 
anything like that which was now presented. 

Never had the two ideas that governed the unfortunate man 
whose sufferings we are relating, engaged in so serious a struggle. 
He comprehended this confusedly, but thoroughly, from the first 
words that Javert pronounced on entering his office. At the 
moment when that name which he had so deeply buried was so 
strangely uttered, he was seized with stupor, and as if intoxi- 
cated by the sinister grotesqueness of his destiny, and through 
that stupor he felt the shudder which precedes great shocks; 
he bent like an oak at the approach of a storm, like a soldier at 
the approach of an assault. He felt clouds full of thunderings 
and lightnings gathering upon his head. Even while listening 
to Javert, his first thought was to go, to run, to denounce him- 
self, to drag this Champmathieu out of prison, and to put himself 
in his place; it was painful and sharp as an incision into the 

Fantine 213 

living flesh, but passed away, and he said to himself: " Let us 
see 1 Let us see ! " He repressed this first generous impulse 
and recoiled before such heroism. 

Doubtless it would have been fane if, after the holy words of 
the bishop, after so many years of repentance and self-denial, 
in the midst of a penitence admirably commenced, even in the 
presence of so terrible a conjecture, he had not faltered an 
instant, and had continued to march on with even pace towards 
that yawning pit at the bottom of which was heaven; this 
would have been fine, but this was not the case. We must 
render an account of what took place in that soul, and we can 
relate only what was there. What first gained control was the 
instinct of self-preservation; he collected his ideas hastily, 
stifled his emotions, took into consideration the presence of 
Javert, the great danger, postponed any decision with the firm- 
ness of terror, banished from his mind all consideration of the 
course he should pursue, and resumed his calmness as a gladiator 
retakes his buckler. 

For the rest of the day he was in this state, a tempest within, 
a perfect calm without; he took only what might be called pre- 
cautionary measures. All was still confused and jostling in his 
brain ; the agitation there was such that he did not see distinctly 
the form of any idea ; and he could have told nothing of himself, 
unless it were that he had just received a terrible blow. He went 
according to his habit to the sick bed of Fantine, and prolonged 
his visit, by an instinct of kindness, saying to himself that he 
ought to do so, and recommend her earnestly to the sisters, in 
case it should happen that he would have to be absent. He felt 
vaguely that it would perhaps be necessary for him to go to 
Arras; and without having in the least decided upon this 
journey, he said to himself that, entirely free from suspicion as 
he was, there would be no difficulty in being a witness of what 
might pass, and he engaged Scaufiflaire's tilbury, in order to be 
prepared for any emergency. 

He dined with a good appetite. 

Returning to his room he collected his thoughts* 

He examined the situation and found it an unheard-of 
one; so unheard-of that in the midst of his revery, by some 
strange impulse of almost inexplicable anxiety, he rose from 
his chair, and bolted his door. He feared lest something might 
yet enter. He barricaded himself against all possibilities. 

A moment afterwards he blew out his light. It annoyed him. 

It seemed to him that somebody could see him* 

214 Les Miserables 

Who ? Somebody ? 

Alas! what he wanted to keep out of doors had entered} 
what he wanted to render blind was looking upon him. His 

His conscience, that is to say, God. 

At the first moment, however, he deluded himself; he had a 
feeling of safety and solitude; the bolt drawn, he believed him- 
self invisible. Then he took possession of himself; he placed 
his elbows on the table, rested his head on his hand, and set 
himself to meditating in the darkness. 

" Where am I ? Am I not in a dream ? What have I heard ? 
Is it really true that I saw this Javert, and that he talked to me 
so ? Who can this Champmathieu be ? He resembles me then ? 
Is it possible? When I think that yesterday I was so calm, 
and so far from suspecting anything! What was I doing 
yesterday at this time? What is there in this matter? How 
will it turn out? What is to be done? " 

Such was the torment he was in. His brain had lost the 
power of retaining its ideas; they passed away like waves, and 
he grasped his forehead with both hands to stop them. 

Out of this tumult, which overwhelmed his will and his 
reason, and from which he sought to draw a certainty and a 
resolution, nothing came clearly forth but anguish. 

His brain was burning. He went to the window and threw 
it wide open. Not a star was in the sky. He returned and sat 
down by the table. 

The first hour thus rolled away. 

Little by little, however, vague outlines began to take form 
and to fix themselves in his meditation ; he could perceive, with 
the precision of reality, not the whole of the situation, but a 
few details. 

He began by recognising that, however extraordinary and 
critical the situation was, he was completely master of it. 

His stupor only became the deeper. 

Independently of the severe and religious aim that his actions 
had in view, all that he had done up to this day was only a 
hole that he was digging in which to bury his name. What he 
had always most dreaded, in his hours of self-communion, in 
his sleepless nights, was the thought of ever hearing that name 
pronounced ; he felt that would be for him the end of all ; that 
the day on which that name should reappear would see vanish 
from around him his new life, and, who knows, even perhaps 
his new soul from within him. He shuddered at the bare 

Fantine 2 1 5 

thought that it was possible. Surely, if any one had told him 
at such moments that an hour would come when that name 
would resound in his ear, when that hideous word, Jean Valjean, 
would start forth suddenly from the night and stand before 
him; when this fearful glare, destined to dissipate the mystery 
in which he had wrapped himself, would flash suddenly upon 
his head, and that this name would not menace him, and that 
this glare would only make his obscurity the deeper, that this 
rending of the veil would increase the mystery, that this earth- 
quake would consolidate his edifice, that this prodigious event 
would have no other result, if it seemed good to him, to himself 
alone, than to render his existence at once more brilliant and 
more impenetrable, and that, from his encounter with the 
phantom of Jean Valjean, the good and worthy citizen, Monsieur 
Madeleine, would come forth more honoured, more peaceful, 
and more respected than ever if any one had said this to him, 
he would have shaken his head and looked upon the words as 
nonsense. Well! precisely that had happened; all this group- 
ing of the impossible was now a fact, and God had permitted 
these absurdities to become real things ! 

His musings continued to grow clearer. He was getting a 
wider and wider view of his position. 

It seemed to him that he had just awaked from some wondrous 
slumber, and that he found himself gliding over a precipice in 
the middle of the night, standing, shivering, recoiling in vain, 
upon the very edge of an abyss. He perceived distinctly in the 
gloom an unknown man, a stranger, whom fate had mistaken 
for him, and was pushing into the gulf in his place. It was 
necessary, in order that the gulf should be closed, that some 
one should fall in, he or the other. 

He had only to let it alone. 

The light became complete, and he recognised this : That his 
place at the galleys was empty, that do what he could it was 
always awaiting him, that the robbing of Petit Gervais sent him 
back there, that this empty place would await him and attract 
him until he should be there, that this was inevitable and fatal. 
And then he said to himself : That at this very moment he had 
a substitute, that it appeared that a man named Champmathieu 
had that unhappy lot, and that, as for himself, present in future 
at the galleys in the person of this Champmathieu, present in 
society under the name of Monsieur Madeleine, he had nothing 
more to fear, provided he did not prevent men from sealing 
upon the head of this Champmathieu that stone of infamy 

2i 6 Les Miserables 

which, like the stone of the sepulchre, falls once never to rise 

All this was so violent and so strange that he suddenly felt 
that kind of indescribable movement that no man experiences 
more than two or three times in his life, a sort of convulsion of 
the conscience that stirs up all that is dubious in the heart, 
which is composed of irony, of joy, and of despair, and which 
might be called a burst of interior laughter. 

He hastily relighted his candle. 

" Well, what! " said he, " what am I afraid of? why do I 
ponder over these things? I am now safe? all is finished. 
There was but a single half-open door through which my past 
could make an irruption into my life; that door is now walled 
up 1 for ever I This Javert who has troubled me so long, that 
fearful instinct which seemed to have divined the truth, that 
had divined it, in fact! and which followed me everywhere, 
that terrible bloodhound always in pursuit of me, he is thrown 
off the track, engrossed elsewhere, absolutely baffled. He is 
satisfied henceforth, he will leave me in quiet, he holds his Jean 
Valjean fast! Who knows! it is even probable that he will 
want to leave the city! And all this is accomplished without 
my aid! And I have nothing to do with it! Ah, yes, but, 
what is there unfortunate in all this! People who should see 
me, upon my honour, would think that a catastrophe had 
befallen me! After all, if there is any harm done to anybody, 
it is in nowise my fault. Providence has done it all. This is 
what He wishes apparently. Have I the right to disarrange 
what He arranges? What is it that I ask for now? Why do 
I interfere ? It does not concern me. How ! I am not satisfied ! 
But what would I have then ? The aim to which I have aspired 
for so many years, my nightly dream, the object of my prayers 
to heaven, security, I have gained it. It is God's will. I must 
do nothing contrary to the will of God. And why is it God's 
will ? That I may carry on what I have begun, that I may do 
good, that I may be one day a grand and encouraging example, 
that it may be said that there was finally some little happiness 
resulting from this suffering which I have undergone and this 
virtue to which I have returned! Really I do not understand 
why I was so much afraid to go to this honest cur6 and tell him 
the whole story as a confessor, and ask his advice; this is 
evidently what he would have said to me. It is decided, let 
the matter alone ! let us not interfere with God." 

Thus he spoke in the depths of his conscience, hanging over 

Fantine 217 

what might be called his own abyss. He rose from his chair, 
and began to walk the room. " Come/' said he, " let us think 
of it no more. The resolution is formed ! " But he felt no joy. 

Quite the contrary. 

One can no more prevent the mind from returning to an idea 
than the sea from returning to a shore. In the case of the 
sailor, this is called the tide; in the case of the guilty, it is 
called remorse. God upheaves the soul as well as the ocean. 

After the lapse of a few moments, he could do no otherwise, 
he resumed this sombre dialogue, in which it was himself who 
spoke and himself who listened, saying what he wished to keep 
silent, listening to what he did not wish to hear, yielding to 
that mysterious power which said to him: " think 1 " as it said 
two thousand years ago to another condemned: " march! " 

Before going further, and in order to be fully understood, it 
is necessary that we should make with some emphasis a single 

It is certain that we talk with ourselves ; there is not a think- 
ing being who has not experienced that. We may say even 
that the word is never a more magnificent mystery than when 
it goes, in the interior of a man, from his thoughts to his con- 
science, and returns from his conscience to his thought. It is 
in this sense only that the words must be understood, so often 
employed in this chapter, he said, he exclaimed ; we say to our- 
selves, we speak to ourselves, we exclaim within ourselves, the 
external silence not being broken. There is a great tumult 
within; everything within us speaks, except the tongue. The 
realities of the soul, because they are not visible and palpable, 
are not the less realities. 

He asked himself then where he was. He questioned himself 
upon this " resolution formed." He confessed to himself that 
all that he had been arranging in his mind was monstrous, that 
" to let the matter alone, not to interfere with God," was simply 
horrible, to let this mistake of destiny and of men be accom- 
plished, not to prevent it, to lend himself to it by his silence, to 
do nothing, finally, was to do all! it was the last degree of 
hypocritical meanness ! it was a base, cowardly, lying, abject, 
hideous crime! 

For the first time within eight years, the unhappy man had 
just tasted the bitter flavour of a wicked thought and a wicked 

He spit it out with disgust. 

He continued to question himself. He sternly asked himself 

2 i 8 Les Miserables 

what he had understood by this : " My object is attained." He 
declared that his life, in truth, did have an object. But what 
object? to conceal his name ? to deceive the police? was it for 
so petty a thing that he had done all that he had done? had 
he no other object, which was the great one, which was the true 
one? To save, not his body, but his soul. To become honest 
and good again. To be an upright man ! was it not that above 
all, that alone, which he had always wished, and which the 
bishop had enjoined upon him ? To close the door on his past ? 
But he was not closing it ; great God ! he was re-opening it by 
committing an infamous act! for he became a robber again, 
and the most odious of robbers ! he robbed another of his exist- 
ence, his life, his peace, his place in the world, he became an 
assassin ! he murdered, he murdered in a moral sense a wretched 
man, he inflicted upon him that frightful life in death, that 
living burial, which is called the galleys! on the contrary, to 
deliver himself up, to save this man stricken by so ghastly a 
mistake, to reassume his name, to become again from duty the 
convict Jean Valjean; that was really to achieve his resurrec- 
tion, and to close for ever the hell from whence he had emerged 1 
to fall back into it in appearance, was to emerge in reality ! he 
must do that! all he had done was nothing, if he did not do 
that ! all his life was useless, all his suffering was lost. He had 
only to ask the question: " What is the use? " He felt that 
the bishop was there, that the bishop was present all the more 
that he was dead, that the bishop was looking fixedly at him, 
that henceforth Mayor Madeleine with all his virtues would be 
abominable to him, and the galley slave, Jean Valjean, would 
be admirable and pure in his sight. That men saw his mask, 
but the bishop saw his face. That men saw his life, but the 
bishop saw his conscience. He must then go to Arras, deliver 
the wrong Jean Valjean, denounce the right one. Alas! that 
was the greatest of sacrifices, the most poignant of victories, 
the final step to be taken, but he must do it. Mournful destiny 1 
he could only enter into sanctity in the eyes of God, by returning 
into infamy in the eyes of men ! 

" Well," said he, " let us take this course ! let us do our duty ! 
Let us save this man! " 

He pronounced these words in a loud voice, without perceiving 
that he was speaking aloud. 

He took his books, verified them, and put them in order. He 
threw into the fire a package of notes which he held against 
needy small traders. He wrote a letter, which he sealed, and 

Fantine 219 

upon the envelope of which might have been read, if there had 
been any one in the room at the time : Monsieur Laffitte, banker, 
Rue d'Artois, Paris. 

He drew from a secretary a pocket-book containing some 
banknotes and the passport that he had used that same year 
in going to the elections. 

Had any one seen him while he was doing these various acts 
with such serious meditation, he would not have suspected what 
was passing within him. Still at intervals his lips quivered; at 
other times he raised his head and fixed his eye on some point 
of the wall, as if he saw just there something that he wished 
to clear up or to interrogate. 

The letter to Monsieur Laffitte finished, he put it in his 
pocket as well as the pocket-book, and began his walk again. 

The current of his thought had not changed. He still saw 
his duty clearly written in luminous letters which flared out 
before his eyes, and moved with his gaze: "Go! avow thy 
name t denounce thyself 1 " 

He saw also, and as if they were laid bare before him with 
sensible forms, the two ideas which had been hitherto the 
double rule of his life, to conceal his name, and to sanctify his 
soul. For the first time, they appeared to him absolutely 
distinct, and he saw the difference which separated them. He 
recognised that one of these ideas was necessarily good, while 
the other might become evil; that the former was devotion, 
and that the latter was selfishness; that the one said: " the 
neighbour " and that the other said: " me ; " that the one came 
from the light, and the other from the night. 

They were fighting with each other. He saw them fighting. 
While he was looking, they had expanded before his mind's eye; 
they were now colossal; and it seemed to him that he saw 
struggling within him, in that infinite of which we spoke just 
now, in the midst of darkness and gloom, a goddess and a 

He was full of dismay, but it seemed to him that the good 
thought was gaining the victory. 

He felt that he had reached the second decisive moment of 
his conscience, and his destiny; that the bishop had marked 
the first phase of his new life, and that this Champmathieu 
marked the second. After a great crisis, a great trial. 

Meanwhile the fever, quieted for an instant, returned upon 
him little by little. A thousand thoughts flashed across him, 
but they fortified him in his resolution. 

22O Les Miserables 

One moment he had said: that perhaps he took the affair 
too much to heart, that after all this Champmathieu was not 
worthy of interest, that in fact he had committed theft. 

He answered: If this man has in fact stolen a few apples, 
that is a month in prison. There is a wide distance between 
that and the galleys. And who knows even ? has he committed 
theft? is it proven? the name of Jean Valjean overwhelms 
him, and seems to dispense with proofs. Are not prosecuting 
officers in the habit of acting thus ? They think him a robber, 
because they know him to be a convict. 

At another moment, the idea occurred to him that, if he 
should denounce himself, perhaps the heroism of his action, and 
his honest life for the past seven years, and what he had done 
for the country, would be considered, and he would be pardoned. 

But this supposition quickly vanished, and he smiled bitterly 
at the thought, that the robbery of the forty sous from Petit 
Gervais made him a second offender, that that matter would 
certainly reappear, and by the precise terms of the law he 
would be condemned to hard labour for life. 

He turned away from all illusion, disengaged himself more 
and more from the earth, and sought consolation and strength 
elsewhere. He said to himself that he must do his duty; that 
perhaps even he should not be more unhappy after having done 
his duty than after having evaded it; that if he let matters 

alone, if he remained at M sur M , his reputation, his 

good name, his good works, the deference, the veneration he 
commanded, his charity, his riches, his popularity, his virtue, 
would be tainted with a crime, and what pleasure would there 
be in all these holy things tied to that hideous thing? while, if 
he carried out the sacrifice, in the galleys, with his chain, with 
his iron collar, with his green cap, with his perpetual labour, 
with his pitiless shame, there would be associated a celestial 

Finally, he said to himself that it was a necessity, that his 
destiny was so fixed, that it was not for him to derange the 
arrangements of God, that at all events he must choose, either 
virtue without, and abomination within, or sanctity within, 
and infamy without. 

In revolving so many gloomy ideas, his courage did not fail, 
but his brain was fatigued. He began in spite of himself to 
think of other things, of indifferent things. 

His blood rushed violently to his temples. He walked back 
and forth constantly. Midnight was struck first from the 

Fantine 221 

parish church, then from the city hall. He counted the twelve 
strokes of the two clocks, and he compared the sound of the 
two bells. It reminded him that, a few days before, he had 
seen at a junkshop an old bell for sale, upon which was this 
name: Antoine Albin de Romainville. 

He was cold. He kindled a fire. He did not think to close 
the window. 

Meanwhile he had fallen into his stupor again. It required 
not a little effort to recall his mind to what he was thinking of 
before the clocks struck. He succeeded at last. 

" Ah ! yes," said he, " I had formed the resolution to 
denounce myself." 

And then all at once he thought of Fantine. 

" Stop ! " said he, " this poor woman ! " 

Here was a new crisis. 

Fantine abruptly appearing in his reverie, was like a ray of 
unexpected light. It seemed to him that everything around 
him was changing its aspect; he exclaimed: 

" Ah ! yes, indeed ! so far I have only thought of myself ! I 
have only looked to my own convenience ! It is whether I shall 
keep silent or denounce myself, conceal my body or save my 
soul, be a despicable and respected magistrate, or an infamous 
and venerable galley slave; it is myself, always myself, only 
myself. But, good God! all this is egotism. Different forms 
of egotism, but still egotism ! Suppose I should think a little of 
others? The highest duty is to think of others. Let us see, 
let us examine! I gone, I taken away, I forgotten; what will 
become of all this? I denounce myself? I am arrested, this 
Champmathieu is released, I am sent back to the galleys ; very 
well, and what then ? what takes place here ? Ah ! here, there 
is a country, a city, factories, a business, labourers, men, women, 
old grandfathers, children, poor people! I have created all 
this, I keep it all alive; wherever a chimney is smoking, I have 
put the brands in the fire and the meat in the pot; I have 
produced ease, circulation, credit; before me there was nothing; 
I have aroused, vivified, animated, quickened, stimulated, en- 
riched, all the country; without me, the soul is gone. I take 
myself away; it all dies. And this woman who has suffered so 
much, who is so worthy in her fall, all whose misfortunes I have 
unconsciously caused! And that child which I was going for, 
which I have promised to the mother! Do I not also owe 
something to this woman, in reparation for the wrong that I 
have done her? If I should disappear, what happens? The- 

222 Les Miserables 

mother dies. The child becomes what she may. This is what 
comes to pass, if I denounce myself; and if I do not denounce 
myself? Let us see, if I do not denounce myself? " 

After putting this question, he stopped; for a moment he 
hesitated and trembled; but that moment was brief, and he 
answered with calmness: 

" Well, this man goes to the galleys, it is true, but, what of 
that? He has stolen! It is useless for me to say he has not 
stolen, he has stolen! As for me, I remain here, I go on. In 
ten years I shall have made ten millions; I scatter it over the 
country, I keep nothing for myself; what is it to me? What I 
am doing is not for myself. The prosperity of all goes on 
increasing, industry is quickened and excited, manufactories 
and workshops are multiplied, families, a hundred families, a 
thousand families, are happy; the country becomes populous; 
villages spring up where there were only farms, farms spring up 
where there was nothing ; poverty disappears, and with poverty 
disappear debauchery, prostitution, theft, murder, all vices, all 
crimes! And this poor mother brings up her child! and the 
whole country is rich and honest ! Ah, yes ! How foolish, how 
absurd I was ! What was I speaking of in denouncing myself ? 
This demands reflection, surely, and nothing must be precipi- 
tate. What! because it would have pleased me to do the 
grand and the generous! That is melodramatic, after all! 
Because I only thought of myself, of myself alone, what! to 
save from a punishment perhaps a little too severe, but in 
reality just, nobody knows who, a thief, a scoundrel at any rate. 
Must an entire country be let go to ruin ! must a poor hapless 
woman perish in the hospital ! must a poor little girl perish on 
the street! like dogs! Ah! that would be abominable! And 
the mother not even see her child again ! and the child hardly 
have known her mother ! And all that for this old whelp of an 
apple-thief, who, beyond all doubt, deserves the galleys for 
something else, if not for this. Fine scruples these, which save 
an old vagabond who has, after all, only a few years to live, and 
who will hardly be more unhappy in the galleys than in his 
hovel, and which sacrifice a whole population, mothers, wives, 
children! This poor little Cosette who has no one but me in 
the world, and who is doubtless at this moment all blue with 
cold, in the hut of these Thenardiers ! They too are miserable 
rascals! And I should fail in my duty towards all these poor 
beings! And I should go away and denounce myself! And I 
should commit this silly blunder! Take it at the very worst. 

Fantine 223 

Suppose there were a misdeed for me in this, and that my con- 
science should some day reproach me; the acceptance for the 
good of others of these reproaches which weigh only upon me, 
of this misdeed which affects only my own soul, why, that is 
devotion, that is virtue." 

He arose and resumed his walk. This time it seemed to him 
that he was satisfied. 

Diamonds are found only in the dark places of the earth; 
truths are found only in the depths of thought. It seemed to 
him that after having descended into these depths, after having 
groped long in the blackest of this darkness, he had at last 
found one of these diamonds, one of these truths, and that he 
held it in his hand ; and it blinded him to look at it. 

" Yes," thought he, " that is it! I am in the true road. I 
have the solution. I must end by holding fast to something. 
My choice is made. Let the matter alone! No more vacilla- 
tion, no more shrinking. This is in the interest of all, not in 
my own. I am Madeleine, I remain Madeleine. Woe to him 
who is Jean Valjean ! He and I are no longer the same. I do 
not recognise that man, I no longer know what he is; if it is 
found that anybody is Jean Valjean at this hour, let him take 
care of himself. That does not concern me. That is a fatal 
name which is floating about in the darkness; if it stops and 
settles upon any man, so much the worse for that man." 

He looked at himself in the little mirror that hung over his 
mantel-piece and said : 

" Yes ! To come to a resolution has solaced me ! I am quite 
another man now ! " 

He took a few steps more, then he stopped short. 

" Come ! " said he, "I must not hesitate before any of the 
consequences of the resolution I have formed. There are yet 
some threads which knit me to this Jean Valjean. They must 
be broken ! There are, in this very room, objects which would 
accuse me, mute things which would be witnesses; it is done, 
all these must disappear." 

He felt in his pocket, drew out his purse, opened it, and took 
out a little key. 

He put this key into a lock the hole of which was hardly 
visible, lost as it was in the darkest shading of the figures on 
the paper which covered the wall. A secret door opened; a 
kind of false press built between the corner of the wall and the 
casing of the chimney. There was nothing in this closet but a 
few refuse trifles; a blue smock-frock, an old pair of trousers, 

224 Les Miserables 

an old haversack, and a great thorn stick, iron-bound at both 
ends. Those who had seen Jean Valjean at the time he passed 

through D , in October, 1815, would have recognised easily 

all the fragments of this miserable outfit. 

He had kept them, as he had kept the silver candlesticks, to 
remind him at all times of what he had been. But he concealed 
what came from the galleys, and left the candlesticks that came 
from the bishop in sight. 

He cast a furtive look towards the door, as if he were afraid 
it would open in spite of the bolt that held it; then with a 
quick and hasty movement, and at a single armful, without 
even a glance at these things which he had kept so religiously 
and with so much danger during so many years, he took the 
whole, rags, stick, haversack, and threw them all into the fire. 

He shut up the false press, and, increasing his precautions, 
henceforth useless, since it was empty, concealed the door behind 
a heavy piece of furniture which he pushed against it. 

In a few seconds, the room and the wall opposite were lit up 
with a great, red, flickering glare. It was all burning; the 
thorn stick cracked and threw out sparks into the middle of 
the room. 

The haversack, as it was consumed with the horrid rags which 
it contained, left something uncovered which glistened in the 
ashes. By bending towards it, one could have easily recognised 
a piece of silver. It was doubtless the forty sous piece stolen 
from the little Savoyard. 

But he did not look at the fire; he continued his walk to 
and fro, always at the same pace. 

Suddenly has eyes fell upon the two silver candlesticks on the 
mantel, which were glistening dimly in the reflection. 

" Stop ! " thought he, " all Jean Valjean is contained in them 
too. They also must be destroyed." 

He took the two candlesticks. 

There was fire enough to melt them quickly into an unrecog- 
nisable ingot. 

He bent over the fire and warmed himself a moment. It felt 
really comfortable to him. " The pleasant warmth! " said he. 

He stirred the embers with one of the candlesticks. 

A minute more, and they would have been in the fire. 

At that moment, it seemed to him that he heard a voice 
crying within him: " Jean Valjean ! " " Jean Valjean ! " 

His hair stood on end; he was like a man who hears som 
terrible thing. 

Fantine 225 

" Yes ! that is it, finish ! " said the voice, " complete what 
you are doing! destroy these candlesticks! annihilate this 
memorial! forget the bishop! forget all! ruin this Champ- 
mathieu, yes ! very well. Applaud yourself ! So it is arranged, 
it is determined, it is done. Behold a man, a greybeard who 
knows not what he is accused of, who has done nothing, it may 
be, an innocent man, whose only misfortune is caused by your 
name, upon whom your name weighs like a crime, who will be 
taken instead of you; will be condemned, will end his days in 
abjection and in horror! very well. Be an honoured man 
yourself. Remain, Monsieur Mayor, remain honourable and 
honoured, enrich the city, feed the poor, bring up the orphans, 
live happy, virtuous, and admired, and all this time while you 
are here in joy and in the light, there shall be a man wearing 
your red blouse, bearing your name in ignominy, and dragging 
your chain in the galleys! Yes! this is a fine arrangement! 
Oh, wretch ! " 

The sweat rolled off his forehead. He looked upon the 
candlesticks with haggard eyes. Meanwhile the voice which 
spoke within him had not ended. It continued : 

" Jean Valjean ! there shall be about you many voices which 
will make great noise, which will speak very loud, and which 
will bless you ; and one only which nobody shall hear, and which 
will curse you in the darkness. Well, listen, wretch! all these 
blessings shall fall before they reach Heaven; only the curse 
shall mount into the presence of God ! " 

This voice, at first quite feeble, and which was raised from 
the most obscure depths of his conscience, had become by 
degrees loud and formidable, and he heard it now at his ear. 
It seemed to him that it had emerged from himself, and that 
it was speaking now from without. He thought he heard the 
last words so distinctly that he looked about the room with a 
kind of terror. 

" Is there anybody here? " asked he, aloud and in a startled 

Then he continued with a laugh, which was like the laugh of 
an idiot: 

" What a fool I am ! there cannot be anybody here." 

There was One; but He who was there was not of such as 
the human eye can see. 

He put the candlesticks on the mantel. 

Then he resumed this monotonous and dismal walk, which 

I H 

226 Les Miserables 

disturbed the man asleep beneath him in his dreams, and 
wakened him out of his sleep. 

This walk soothed him and excited him at the same time. 
It sometimes seems that on the greatest occasions we put our- 
selves in motion in order to ask advice from whatever we may 
meet by change of place. After a few moments he no longer 
knew where he was. 

He now recoiled with equal terror from each of the resolutions 
which he had formed in turn. Each of the two ideas which 
counselled him, appeared to him as fatal as the other. What a 
fatality! What a chance that this Champmathieu should be 
mistaken for him! To be hurled down headlong by the very 
means which Providence seemed at first to have employed to 
give him full security. 

There was a moment during which he contemplated the future. 
Denounce himself, great God ! Give himself up ! He saw with 
infinite despair all that he must leave, all that he must resume. 
He must then bid farewell to this existence, so good, so pure, 
so radiant; to this respect of all, to honour, to liberty! No 
more would he go out to walk in the fields, never again would 
he hear the birds singing in the month of May, never more give 
alms to the little children ! No longer would he feel the sweet- 
ness of looks of gratitude and of love! He would leave this 
house that he had built, this little room 1 Everything appeared 
charming to him now. He would read no more in these books, 
he would write no more on this little white wood table! His 
old portress, the only servant he had, would no longer bring 
him his coffee in the morning. Great God ! instead of that, the 
galley-crew, the iron collar, the red blouse, the chain at his 
foot, fatigue, the dungeon, the plank-bed, all these horrors, 
which he knew so well ! At his age, after having been what he 
was! If he were still young! But so old, to be insulted by 
the first comer, to be tumbled about by the prison guard, to 
be struck by the jailor's stick ! To have his bare feet in iron- 
bound shoes! To submit morning and evening his leg to the 
hammer of the roundsman who tests the fetters! To endure 
the curiosity of strangers who would be told: This one is the 

famous Jean Valjean, who was Mayor of M sur M / 

At night, dripping with sweat, overwhelmed with weariness, the 
green cap over his eyes, to mount two by two, under the ser- 
geant's whip, the step-ladder of the floating prison. Oh, what 
wretchedness! Can destiny then be malignant like an intelli- 
gent being, and become monstrous like the human heart? 

Fantine 227 

And do what he might, he always fell back upon this sharp 
dilemma which was at the bottom of his thought. To remain 
in paradise and there become a demon! To re-enter into hell 
and there become an angel ! 

What shall be done, great God ! what shall be done ? 

The torment from which he had emerged with so much diffi- 
culty, broke loose anew within him. His ideas again began to 
become confused. They took that indescribable, stupefied, and 
mechanical shape, which is peculiar to despair. The name of 
Romainville returned constantly to his mind, with two lines of 
a song he had formerly heard. He thought that Romainville 
is a little wood near Paris, where young lovers go to gather 
lilacs in the month of April. 

He staggered without as well as within. He walked like a 
little child that is just allowed to go alone. 

Now and then, struggling against his fatigue, he made an 
effort again to arouse his intellect. He endeavoured to state, 
finally and conclusively, the problem over which he had in some 
sort fallen exhausted. Must he denounce himself? Must he 
be silent? He could see nothing distinctly. The vague forms 
of all the reasonings thrown out by his mind trembled, and 
were dissipated one after another in smoke. But this much he 
felt, that by whichever resolve he might abide, necessarily, and 
without possibility of escape, something of himself would surely 
die; that he was entering into a sepulchre on the right hand, 
as well as on the left; that he was suffering a death-agony, the 
death-agony of his happiness, or the death-agony of his virtue. 

Alas ! all his irresolutions were again upon him. He was no 
further advanced than when he began. 

So struggled beneath its anguish this unhappy soul. Eighteen 
hundred years before this unfortunate man, the mysterious 
Being, in whom are aggregated all the sanctities and all the 
sufferings of humanity, He also, while the olive trees were 
shivering in the fierce breath of the Infinite, had long put away 
from his hand the fearful chalice that appeared before him, 
dripping with shadow and running over with darkness, in the 
star-filled depths. 

228 Les Miserables 



THE clock struck three. For five hours he had been walking 
thus, almost without interruption, when he dropped into his 

He fell asleep and dreamed. 

This dream, like most dreams, had no further relation to the 
condition of affairs than its mournful and poignant character, 
but it made an impression upon him. This nightmare struck 
him so forcibly that he afterwards wrote it down. It is one of 
the papers in his own handwriting, which he has left behind 
him. We think it our duty to copy it here literally. 

Whatever this dream may be, the story of that night would 
be incomplete if we should omit it. It is the gloomy adventure 
of a sick soul. 

It is as follows : Upon the envelope we find this line written : 
" The dream that 1 had that night" 

" I was in a field. A great sad field where there was no grass. 
It did not seem that it was day, nor that it was night. 

" I was walking with my brother, the brother of my child- 
hood ; this brother of whom I must say that I never think, and 
whom I scarcely remember. 

" We were talking, and we met others walking. We were 
speaking of a neighbour we had formerly, who, since she had 
lived in the street, always worked with her window open. Even 
while we talked, we felt cold on account of that open window. 

" There were no trees in the field. 

" We saw a man passing near us. He was entirely naked, 
ashen-coloured, mounted upon a horse which was of the colour 
of earth. The man had no hair; we saw his skull and the 
veins in his skull. In his hand he held a stick which was limber 
like a twig of grape vine, and heavy as iron. This horseman 
passed by and said nothing. 

" My brother said to me: ' Let us take the deserted road.' 

" There was a deserted road where we saw not a bush, nor 
even a sprig of moss. All was of the colour of earth, even the 
sky. A few steps further, and no one answered me when I 
spoke. I perceived that my brother was no longer with me. 

" I entered a village which I saw. I thought that it must be 
Romainville (why Romainville?). 1 

1 This parenthesis is in the hand of Jean Valjean. 

Fantine 229 

" The first street by which I entered was deserted. I passed 
into a second street. At the corner of the two streets was a 
man standing against the wall, I said to this man : ' What place 
is this? Where am I? ' The man made no answer. I saw 
the door of a house open, I went in. 

" The first room was deserted. I entered the second. Behind 
the door of this room was a man standing against the wall. I 
asked this man : ' Whose house is this ? Where am I ? ' The 
man made no answer. The house had a garden. 

" I went out of the house and into the garden. The garden 
was deserted. Behind the first tree I found a man standing. 
I said to this man : ' What is this garden ? Where am I ? ' 
The man made no answer. 

" I wandered about the village, and I perceived that it was a 
city. All the streets were deserted, all the doors were open. 
No living being was passing along the streets, or stirring in the 
rooms, or walking in the gardens. But behind every angle of 
a wall, behind every door, behind everything, there was a man 
standing who kept silence. But one could ever be seen at a 
time. These men looked at me as I passed by. 

" I went out of the city and began to walk in the fields. 

" After a little while, I turned and I saw a great multitude 
coming after me. I recognised all the men that I had seen in 
the city. Their heads were strange. They did not seem to 
hasten, and still they walked faster than I. They made no 
sound in walking. In an instant this multitude came up and 
surrounded me. The faces of these men were the colour of 

" Then the first one whom I had seen and questioned en 
entering the city, said to me: ' Where are you going? Do you 
not know that you have been dead for a long time ? ' 

" I opened my mouth to answer, and I perceived that no one 
was near me." 

He awoke. He was chilly. A wind as cold as the morning 
wind made the sashes of the still open window swing on their 
hinges. The fire had gone out. The candle was low in the 
socket. The night was yet dark. 

He arose and went to the window. There were still no stars 
in the sky. 

From his window he could look into the court-yard and into 
the street. A harsh, rattling noise that suddenly resounded 
from the ground made him look down. 

230 Les Miserablcs 

He saw below him two red stars, whose rays danced back and 
forth grotesquely in the shadow. 

His mind was still half buried in the mist of his reverie: 
" Yes ! " thought he, " there are none in the sky. They are on 
the earth now." 

This confusion, however, faded away ; a second noise like the 
first awakened him completely; he looked, and he saw that 
these two stars were the lamps of a carriage. By the light 
which they emitted, he could distinguish the form of a carriage. 
It was a tilbury drawn by a small white horse. The noise 
which he had heard was the sound of the horse's hoofs upon 
the pavement. 

" What carriage is that? " said he to himself. " Who is it 
that comes so early? " 

At that moment there was a low rap at the door of his room. 

He shuddered from head to foot and cried in a terrible voice : 

"Who is there?" 

Some one answered: 

" I, Monsieur Mayor." 

He recognised the voice of the old woman, his portress. 

" Well," said he, " what is it? " 

" Monsieur Mayor, it is just five o'clock." 

" What is that to me? " 

" Monsieur Mayor, it is the chaise." 

"What chaise?" 

" The tilbury." 

"What tilbury?" 

" Did not Monsieur the Mayor order a tilbury ? " 

" No," said he. 

" The driver says that he has come for Monsieur the Mayor." 

"What driver?" 

" Monsieur Scaufflaire's driver." 

" Monsieur Scaufflaire? " 

That name startled him as if a flash had passed before his face. 

" Oh, yes ! " he said, " Monsieur Scaufflaire ! " 

Could the old woman have seen him at that moment she would 
have been frightened. 

There was a long silence. He examined the flame of the 
candle with a stupid air, and took some of the melted wax from 
around the wick and rolled it in his fingers. The old woman 
was waiting. She ventured, however, to speak again : 

" Monsieur Mayor, what shall I say? " 

" Say that it is right, and I am coming down." 

Fan tine 2 3 I 



THE postal service from Arras to M sur M was still 

performed at this time by the little mail waggons of the date of 
the empire. These mail waggons were two-wheeled cabriolets, 
lined with buckskin, hung upon jointed springs, and having 
but two seats, one for the driver, the other for the traveller. 
The wheels were armed with those long threatening hubs which 
keep other vehicles at a distance, and which are still seen upon 
the roads of Germany. The letters were carried in a huge 
oblong box placed behind the cabriolet and making a part of 
it. This box was painted black and the cabriolet yellow. 

These vehicles, which nothing now resembles, were inde- 
scribably misshapen and clumsy, and when they were seen 
from a distance crawling along some road in the horizon, they 
were like those insects called, I think, termites, which with a 
slender body draw a great train behind. They went, however, 
very fast. The mail that left Arras every night at one o'clock, 

after the passing of the courier from Paris, arrived at M 

sur M a little before five in the morning. 

That night the mail that came down to M sur M by 

the road from Hesdin, at the turn of a street just as it was 
entering the city, ran against a little tilbury drawn by a white 
horse, which was going in the opposite direction, and in which 
there was only one person, a man wrapped in a cloak. The 
wheel of the tilbury received a very severe blow. The courier 
cried out to the man to stop, but the traveller did not listen 
and kept on his way at a rapid trot. 

" There is a man in a devilish hurry ! " said the courier. 

The man who was in such a hurry was he whom we have seen 
struggling in such pitiable convulsions. 

Where was he going ? He could not have told. Why was he 
in haste? He did not know. He went forward at haphazard. 
Whither? To Arras, doubtless; but perhaps he was going 
elsewhere also. At moments he felt this, and he shuddered. 
He plunged into that darkness as into a yawning gulf. Some- 
thing pushed him, something drew him on. What was passing 
within him, no one could describe, all will understand. What 
man has not entered, at least once in his life, into this dark 
cavern of the unknown? 

232 Les Miserables 

But he had resolved upon nothing, decided nothing, deter- 
mined nothing, done nothing. None of the acts of his conscience 
had been final. He was more than ever as at the first moment. 

Why was he going to Arras ? 

He repeated what he had already said to himself when he 
engaged the cabriolet of Scaufflaire, that, whatever might be 
the result, there could be no objection to seeing with his own 
eyes, and judging of the circumstances for himself; that it was 
even prudent, that he ought to know what took place; that he 
could decide nothing without having observed and scrutinised; 
that in the distance every little thing seems a mountain; that 
after all, when he should have seen this Champmathieu, some 
wretch probably, his conscience would be very much reconciled 
to letting him go to the galleys in his place; that it was true 
that Javert would be there, and Brevet, Chenildieu, Cochepaille, 
old convicts who had known him; but surely they would not 
recognise him; bah! what an idea! that Javert was a hundred 
miles off the track; that all conjectures and all suppositions 
were fixed upon this Champmathieu, and that nothing is so 
stubborn as suppositions and conjectures; that there was, 
therefore, no danger. 

That it was no doubt a dark hour, but that he should get 
through it; that after all he held his destiny, evil as it might 
be, in his own hand; that he was master of it. He clung to 
that thought. 

In reality, to tell the truth, he would have preferred not to 
go to Arras. 

Still he was on the way. 

Although absorbed in thought, he whipped up his horse, 
which trotted away at that regular and sure full trot that gets 
over two leagues and a half an hour. 

In proportion as the tilbury went forward, he felt something 
within him which shrank back. 

At daybreak he was in the open country ; the city of M 

sur M was a long way behind. He saw the horizon growing 

lighter; he beheld, without seeing them, all the frozen figures 
of a winter dawn pass before his eyes. Morning has its spectres 
as well as evening. He did not see them, but, without his con- 
sciousness, and by a kind of penetration which was almost 
physical, those black outlines of trees and hills added to the 
tumultuous state of his soul an indescribable gloom and 

Every time he passed one of the isolated houses that stood 

Fantine 233 

here and there by the side of the road, he said to himself: " But 
yet, there are people there who are sleeping ! " 

The trotting of the horse, the rattling of the harness, the 
wheels upon the pavement, made a gentle, monotonous sound. 
These things are charming when one is joyful, and mournful 
when one is sad. 

It was broad day when he arrived at Hesdin. He stopped 
before an inn to let his horse breathe and to have some oats 
given him. 

This horse was, as Scaufflaire had said, of that small breed of 
the Boulonnais which has too much head, too much belly, and 
not enough neck, but which has an open chest, a large rump, 
fine and slender legs, and a firm foot; a homely race, but strong 
and sound. The excellent animal had made five leagues in 
two hours, and had not turned a hair. 

He did not get out of the tilbury. The stable boy who 
brought the oats stooped down suddenly and examined the 
left wheel. 

" Have you gone far so? " said the man. 

He answered, almost without breaking up his train of thought: 


' Have you come far? " said the boy. 

' Five leagues from here." 


' Why do you say: ah? " 

The boy stooped down again, was silent a moment, with his 
eye fixed on the wheel, then he rose up saying : 

" To think that this wheel has just come five leagues, that is 
possible, but it is very sure that it won't go a quarter of a 
league now." 

He sprang down from the tilbury. 

" What do you say, my friend? " 

" I say that it is a miracle that you have come five leagues 
without tumbling, you and your horse, into some ditch on the 
way. Look for yourself." 

The wheel in fact was badly damaged. The collision with 
the mail waggon had broken two spokes and loosened the hub 
so that the nut no longer held. 

" My friend," said he to the stable-boy, " is there a wheel- 
wright here? " 

" Certainly, monsieur." 

" Do me the favour to go for him." 

" There he is, close by. Hallo, Master Bourgaillard ! " 

234 Les Miserables 

Master Bourgaillard the wheelwright was on his own door- 
step. He came and examined the wheel, and made such a 
grimace as a surgeon makes at the sight of a broken leg. 

" Can you mend that wheel on the spot? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

" When can I start again? " 

" To-morrow." 


" It is a good day's work. Is monsieur in a great hurry? " 

" A very great hurry. I must leave in an hour at the latest." 

" Impossible, monsieur." 

" I will pay whatever you like." 

" Impossible." 

"Well! in two hours." 

" Impossible to-day. There are two spokes and a hub to be 
repaired. Monsieur cannot start again before to-morrow." 

" My business cannot wait till to-morrow. Instead of mend- 
ing this wheel, cannot it be replaced? " 

" How so? " 

" You are a wheelwright? " 

" Certainly, monsieur." 

" Have not you a wheel to sell me? I could start away at 

" A wheel to exchange? " 

" Yes." 

" I have not a wheel made for your cabriolet. Two wheels 
make a pair. Two wheels don't go together haphazard." 

" In that case, sell me a pair of wheels." 

" Monsieur, every wheel doesn't go on to every axle." 

" But try." 

" It's of no use, monsieur. I have nothing but cart wheels 
to sell. We are a small place here." 

" Have you a cabriolet to let? " 

The wheelwright, at the first glance, had seen that the tilbury 
was a hired vehicle. He shrugged his shoulders. 

"You take good care of the cabriolets that you hire! I 
should have one a good while before I would let it to you." 

" Well, sell it to me." 

" I have not one." 

"What! not even a carriole? I am not hard to suit, as 
you see." 

" We are a little place. True, I have under the old shed 
there," added the wheelwright, " an old chaise that belongs to 

Fantine 235 

a citizen of the place, who has given it to me to keep, and who 
uses it every zpth of February. I would let it to you, of course 
it is nothing to me. The citizen must not see it go by, and then, 
it is clumsy; it would take two horses." 

" I will take two post-horses." 

" Where is monsieur going? " 

" To Arras." 

" And monsieur would like to get there to-day ? " 

" I would." 

" By taking post-horses? " 

" Why not? " 

" Will monsieur be satisfied to arrive by four o'clock to- 
morrow morning? " 

" No, indeed." 

" I mean, you see, that there is something to be said, in 
taking post-horses. Monsieur has his passport? " 

" Yes." 

" Well, by taking post-horses, monsieur will not reach Arras 
before to-morrow. We are a cross-road. The relays are poorly 
served, the horses are in the fields. The ploughing season has 
just commenced; heavy teams are needed, and the horses are 
taken from everywhere, from the post as well as elsewhere. 
Monsieur will have to wait at least three or four hours at each 
relay, and then they go at a walk. There are a good many 
hills to climb." 

" Well, I will go on horseback. Unhitch the cabriolet. 
Somebody in the place can surely sell me a saddle." 

" Certainly, but will this horse go under the saddle? " 

" It is true, I had forgotten it, he will not." 

" Then " 

" But I can surely find in the village a horse to let? " 

" A horse to go to Arras at one trip? " 

" Yes." 

" It would take a better horse than there is in our parts. 
You would have to buy him too, for nobody knows you. But 
neither to sell nor to let, neither for five hundred francs nor for 
a thousand, will you find such a one." 

" What shall I do? " 

" The best thing to do, like a sensible man, is that I mend 
the wheel and you continue your journey to-morrow." 

" To-morrow will be too late." 
"Confound it!" 

" Is there no mail that goes to Arras? When does it pass? " 


Les Miserables 

" To-night. Both mails make the trip in the night, the up 
mail as well as the down." 

" How! must you take a whole day to mend this wheel? " 

" A whole day, and a long one ! " 

" If you set two workmen at it? " 

" If I should set ten." 

" If you should tie the spokes with cords ? " 

" The spokes I could, but not the hub. And then the tire 
is also in bad condition, too." 

" Is there no livery stables in the city? " 

" No." 

" Is there another wheelwright? " 

The stable boy and the wheelwright answered at the same 
time, with a shake of the head 

" No." 

He felt an immense joy. 

It was evident that Providence was in the matter. It was 
Providence that had broken the wheel of the tilbury and stopped 
him on his way. He had not yielded to this sort of first summons ; 
he had made all possible efforts to continue his journey; he 
had faithfully and scrupulously exhausted every means; he 
had shrunk neither before the season, nor from fatigue, nor 
from expense; he had nothing for which to reproach himself. 
If he went no further, it no longer concerned him. It was now 
not his fault; it was, not the act of his conscience, but the act 
of Providence. 

He breathed. He breathed freely and with a full chest for 
the first time since Javert's visit. It seemed to him that the 
iron hand which had gripped his heart for twenty hours was 

It appeared to him that now God was for him, was manifestly 
for him. 

He said to himself that he had done all that he could, and 
that now he had only to retrace his steps, tranquilly. . 

If his conversation with the wheelwright had taken place in 
a room of the inn, it would have had no witnesses, nobody 
would have heard it, the matter would have rested there, and 
it is probable that we should not have had to relate any of the 
events which follow, but that conversation occurred in the 
street. Every colloquy in the street inevitably gathers a circle. 
There are always people who ask nothing better than to be 
spectators. While he was questioning the wheelwright, some 
of the passers-by had stopped around them. After listening 

Fan tine 237 

for a few minutes, a young boy whom no one had noticed, had 
separated from the group and ran away. 

At the instant the traveller, after the internal deliberation 
which we have just indicated, was making up his mind to go 
back, this boy returned. He was accompanied by an old 

" Monsieur," said the woman, " my boy tells me that you 
are anxious to hire a cabriolet." 

This simple speech, uttered by an old woman who was brought 
there by a boy, made the sweat pour down his back. He thought 
he saw the hand he was but now freed from reappear in the 
shadow behind him, all ready to seize him again. 

He answered: 

" Yes, good woman, I am looking for a cabriolet to hire." 

And he hastened to add : 

" But there is none in the place." 

" Yes, there is," said the dame. 

" Where is it then? " broke in the wheelwright. 

" At my house," replied the dame. 

He shuddered. The fatal hand had closed upon him again. 

The old woman had, in fact, under a shed, a sort of willow 
carriole. The blacksmith and the boy at the inn, angry that 
the traveller should escape them, intervened. 

" It was a frightful go-cart, it had no springs, it was true the 
seat was hung inside with leather straps, it would not keep out 
the rain, the wheels were rusty and rotten, it couldn't go much 
further than the tilbury, a real jumper ! This gentleman would 
do very wrong to set out in it," etc., etc. 

This was all true, but this go-cart, this jumper, this thing, 
whatever it might be, went upon two wheels and could go 
to Arras. 

He paid what was asked, left the tilbury to be mended at the 
blacksmith's against his return, had the white horse harnessed 
to the carriole, got in, and resumed the route he had followed 
since morning. 

The moment the carriole started, he acknowledged that he 
had felt an instant before a certain joy at the thought that he 
should not go where he was going. He examined that joy with 
a sort of anger, and thought it absurd. Why should he feel 
joy at going back? After all, he was making a journey of his 
own accord, nobody forced him to it. 

And certainly, nothing could happen which he did not choose 
to have happen. 

2 3 8 

Les Miserables 

As he was leaving Hesdin, he heard a voice crying out : " Stop ! 
stop ! " He stopped the carriole with a hasty movement, in 
which there was still something strangely feverish and convulsive 
which resembled hope. 

It was the dame's little boy. 

" Monsieur," said he, " it was I who got the carriole for you." 


" You have not given me anything." 

He, who gave to all, and so freely, felt this claim was exorbi- 
tant and almost odious. 

"Oh! is it you, you beggar?" said he, "you shall Lare 
nothing ! " 

He whipped up the horse and started away at a quick trot. 

He had lost a good deal of time at Hesdin, he wished to make 
it up. The little horse was plucky, and pulled enough for two ; 
but it was February, it had rained, the roads were bad. And 
then, it was no longer the tilbury. The carriole ran hard, and 
was very heavy. And besides there were many steep hills. 

He was almost four hours going from Hesdin to Saint Pol. 
Four hours for five leagues. 

At Saint Pol he drove to the nearest inn, and had the horse 
taken to the stable. As he had promised Scaufflaire, he stood 
near the manger while the horse was eating. He was thinking 
of things sad and confused. 

The innkeeper's wife came into the stable. 

" Does not monsieur wish breakfast ? " 

" Why, it is true," said he, " I have a good appetite." 

He followed the woman, who had a fresh and pleasant face. 
She led him into a low hall, where there were some tables 
covered with oilcloth. 

" Be quick," said he, " I must start again. I am in a hurry." 

A big Flemish servant girl waited on him in all haste. He 
looked at the girl with a feeling of comfort. 

" This is what ailed me," thought he. " I had not break- 

His breakfast was served. He seized the bread, bit a piece, 
then slowly put it back on the table, and did not touch anything 

A teamster was eating at another table. He said to this 

" Why is their bread so bitter? " 

The teamster was a German, and did not understand him. 

He returned to the stable to his horse. 

Fan tine 239 

An hour later he had left Saint Pol, and was driving towards 
Tinques, which is but five leagues from Arras. 

What was he doing during the trip ? What was he thinking 
about? As in the morning, he saw the trees pass by, the 
thatched roofs, the cultivated fields, and the dissolving views of 
the country which change at every turn of the road. Such 
scenes are sometimes sufficient for the soul, and almost do away 
with thought. To see a thousand objects for the first and for 
the last time, what can be deeper and more melancholy? To 
travel is to be born and to die at every instant. It may be 
that in the most shadowy portion of his mind, he was drawing 
a comparison between these changing horizons and human 
existence. All the facts of life are perpetually in flight before 
us. Darkness and light alternate with each other. After a 
flash, an eclipse ; we look, we hasten, we stretch out our hands 
to seize what is passing ; every event is a turn of the road ; and 
all at once we are old. We feel a slight shock, all is black, we 
distinguish a dark door, this gloomy horse of life which was 
carrying us stops, and we see a veiled and unknown form that 
turns him out into the darkness. 

Twilight was falling just as the children coming out of school 
beheld our traveller entering Tinques. It is true that the days 
were still short. He did not stop at Tinques. As he was 
driving out of the village, a countryman who was repairing the 
road, raised his head and said : 

" Your horse is very tired." 

The poor beast, in fact, was not going faster than a walk. 

" Are you going to Arras? " added the countryman. 

" Yes." 

" If you go at this rate, you won't get there very early." 

He stopped his horse and asked the countryman : 

" How far is it from here to Arras? " 

" Near seven long leagues." 

" How is that? the post route only counts five and a quarter." 

" Ah ! " replied the workman, " then you don't know that 
the road is being repaired. You will find it cut off a quarter of 
an hour from here. There's no means of going further." 

" Indeed ! " 

" You will take the left, the road that leads to Carency, and 
cross the river; when you are at Camblin, you will turn to the 
right; that is the road from Mont Saint-Eloy to Arras." 

" But it is night, I shall lose my way." 

" You are not of these parts? " 

240 Lcs Miserables 

" No." 

" Besides, they are all cross-roads." 

" Stop, monsieur," the countryman continued, " do you want 
I should give you some advice ? Your horse is tired ; go back 
to Tinques. There is a good house there. Sleep there. You 
can go on to Arras to-morrow." 

" I must be there to-night this evening? " 

" That is another thing. Then go back all the same to that 
inn, and take an extra horse. The boy that will go with the 
horse will guide you through the cross-roads." 

He followed the countryman's advice, retraced his steps, and 
a half hour afterwards he again passed the same place, but at 
a full trot, with a good extra horse. A stable-boy, who called 
himself a postillion, was sitting upon the shaft of the carriole. 

He felt, however, that he was losing time. It was now quite 

They were driving through a cross-path. The road became 
frightful. The carriole tumbled from one rut to the other. He 
said to the postillion: 

" Keep up a trot, and double drink-money." 

In one of the jolts the whiffle-tree broke. 

"Monsieur," said the postillion, "the whiffle-tree is broken; 
I do not know how to harness my horse now, this road is very 
bad at night, if you will come back and stop at Tinques, we 
can be at Arras early to-morrow morning." 

He answered : " Have you a piece of string and a knife ? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

He cut off the limb of a tree and made a whiffle-tree of it. 

This was another loss of twenty minutes; but they started 
off at a gallop. 

The plain was dark. A low fog, thick and black, was creeping 
over the hill-tops and floating away like smoke. There were 
glimmering flashes from the clouds. A strong wind, which came 
from the sea, made a sound all around the horizon like the 
moving of furniture. Everything that he caught a glimpse of 
had an attitude of terror. How all things shudder under the 
terrible breath of night. 

The cold penetrated him. He had not eaten since the evening 
before. He recalled vaguely to mind his other night adventure 

in the great plain near D , eight years before ; and it seemed 

yesterday K to him. 

Some distant bell struck the hour. He asked the boy : 

"What o'clock is that?" 

Fantine 241 

" Seven o'clock, monsieur; we shall be in Arras at eight. We 
have only three leagues." 

At this moment he thought for the first time, and it seemed 
strange that it had not occurred to him sooner ; that perhaps all 
the trouble he was taking might be useless; that he did not 
even know the hour of the trial; that he should at least have 
informed himself of that; that it was foolish to be going on at 
this rate, without knowing whether it would be of any use. 
Then he figured out some calculations in his mind : that ordin- 
arily the sessions of the courts of assize began at nine o'clock 
in the morning; that this case would not occupy much time; 
this apple-stealing would be very short; that there would be 
nothing but a question of identity; four or five witnesses and 
some little to be said by the lawyers; that he would get there 
after it was all over ! 

The postillion whipped up the horses. They had crossed the 
river, and left Mont Saint-Eloy behind them* 

The night grew darker and darker. 



MEANWHILE, at that very moment, Fantine was in ecstasies. 

She had passed a very bad night. Cough frightful, fever 
redoubled; she had bad dreams. In the morning, when the 
doctor came, she was delirious. He appeared to be alarmed, 
and asked to be informed as soon as Monsieur Madeleine came. 

All the morning she was low-spirited, spoke little and was 
making folds in the sheets, murmuring in a low voice over some 
calculations which appeared to be calculations of distances. 
Her eyes were hollow and fixed. The light seemed almost gone 
out, but then, at moments, they would be lighted up and sparkle 
like stars. It seems as though at the approach of a certain 
dark hour, the light of heaven infills those who are leaving the 
light of earth. 

Whenever Sister Simplice asked her how she was, she 
answered invariably: "Well. I would like to see Monsieur 

A few months earlier, when Fantine had lost the last of her 
modesty, her last shame and her last happiness, she was the 
shadow of herself; now she was the spectre of herself . Physical 

242 Lcs Miserables 

suffering had completed the work of moral suffering. This 
creature of twenty-five years had a wrinkled forehead, flabby 
cheeks, pinched nostrils, shrivelled gums, a leaden complexion, 
a bony neck, protruding collar-bones, skinny limbs, an earthy 
skin, and her fair hair was mixed with grey. Alas! how 
sickness extemporises old age. 

At noon the doctor came again, left a few prescriptions, 
inquired if the mayor had been at the infirmary, and shook his 

Monsieur Madeleine usually came at three o'clock to see the 
sick woman. As exactitude was kindness, he was exact. 

About half-past two, Fantine began to be agitated. In the 
space of twenty minutes, she asked the nun more than ten times : 
" My sister, what time is it? " 

The clock struck three. At the third stroke, Fantine rose up 
in bed ordinarily she could hardly turn herself she joined her 
two shrunken and yellow hands in a sort of convulsive clasp, 
and the nun heard from her one of those deep sighs which seem 
to uplift a great weight. Then Fantine turned and looked 
towards the door. 

Nobody came in; the door did not open. 

She sat so for a quarter of an hour, her eyes fixed upon the 
door, motionless, and as if holding her breath. The sister dared 
not speak. The church clock struck the quarter. Fantine fell 
back upon her pillow. 

She said nothing, and again began to make folds in the sheet. 

A half-hour passed, then an hour, but no one came; every 
time the clock struck, Fantine rose and looked towards the 
door, then she fell back. 

Her thought could be clearly seen, but she pronounced no 
name, she did not complain, she found no fault. She only 
coughed mournfully. One would have said that something dark 
was settling down upon her. She was livid, and her lips were 
blue. She smiled at times. 

The clock struck five. Then the sister heard her speak very 
low and gently: " But since I am going away to-morrow, he 
does wrong not to come to-day ! " 

Sister Simplice herself was surprised at Monsieur Madeleine's 

Meanwhile, Fantine was looking at the canopy of her bed. 
She seemed to be seeking to recall something to her mind. All 
at once she began to sing in a voice as feeble as a whisper. 
The nun listened. This is what Fantine sang: 

Fantine 243 

Nous acheterons de bien belles choses 
En nous promenant le long des faubourgs. 

Les bleuets sont bleus, les roses sont roses, 
Les bleuets sont bleus, j'aime mes amours. 

La vierge Marie aupres de mon poele 

Est venue hier en manteau brode; 

Et m'a dit: Void, cach6 sous mon voile, 

Le petit qu'un jour tu m'as demand6. 

Courez a la ville, ayez de la toile, 

Achetez du fil, achetez un d6. 

Nous acheterons de bien belles choses 
En nous promenant le long des faubourgs. 

Bonne sainte Vierge, aupres de mon poele 
J'ai mis un berceau de rubans orn6; 
Dieu me donnerait sa plus belle etoile, 
J'aime mieux 1' enfant que tu m'as donng. 
Madame, que faire avec cette toile? 
Faites en trousseau pour mon nouveau-n6. 
Les bleuets sont bleus, les roses sont roses, 
Les bleuets sont bleus. j'aime mes amours. 

Layez cette toile. Oil ? Dans la riviere. 

Faites-en, sans rien gter ni salir, 

Une belle jupe avec sa brassiere 

Que je veux broder et de fleurs emplir. 

L'enfant n'est plus la, madame, qu'en faire 
Faites-en un drap pour m'ensevelir. 

Nous acheterons de bien belles choses 
En nous promenant le long de faubourgs. 
Les bleuets sont bleus, les roses sont roses, 
Les bleuets sont bleus, j'aime mes amours. 1 

1 We will buy very pretty things, 
A walking through the faubourgs. 

Violets are blue, roses are red, 
Violets are blue, I love my loves. 

The Virgin Mary to my bed 
Came yesterday in broidered cloak 
And told me: " Here hidden in my veil 
Is the babe that once you asked of me." 
" Run to the town, get linen, 
Buy thread, buy a thimble." 

We will buy very pretty things, 

A walking through the faubourgs. 

Good holy Virgin, by my bed 

I have put a cradle draped with ribbons; 

Were God to give me his fairest star, 

I should love the babe thou hast given me more. 

" Madame, what shall be done with this linen?" 

"Make a trousseau for my new-born." 

Violets are blue, roses are red, 

Violets are blue, I love my loves. 

244 Les Miserablcs 

This was an old nursery song with which she once used to 
sing her little Cosette to sleep, and which had not occurred to 
her mind for the five years since she had had her child with 
her. She sang it in a voice so sad, and to an air so sweet, that 
it could not but draw tears even from a nun. The sister, 
accustomed to austerity as she was, felt a drop upon her 

The clock struck six. Fantine did not appear to hear. She 
seemed no longer to pay attention to anything around her. 

Sister Simplice sent a girl to inquire of the portress of the 
factory if the mayor had come in, and if he would not very 
soon come to the infirmary. The girl returned in a few minutes. 

Fantine was still motionless, and appeared to be absorbed in 
her own thoughts. 

The servant related in a whisper to Sister Simplice that the 
mayor had gone away that morning before six o'clock in a little 
tilbury drawn by a white horse, cold as the weather was; that 
he went alone, without even a driver, that no one knew the 
road he had taken, that some said he had been seen to turn off 
by the road to Arras, that others were sure they had met him 
on the road to Paris. That when he went away he seemed, as 
usual, very kind, and that he simply said to the portress that 
he need not be expected that night. 

While the two women were whispering, with their backs 
turned towards Fantine's bed, the sister questioning, the servant 
conjecturing, Fantine, with that feverish vivacity of certain 
organic diseases, which unites the free movement of health with 
the frightful exhaustion of death, had risen to her knees on the 
bed, her shrivelled hands resting on the bolster, and with her 
head passing through the opening of the curtains, she listened. 
AH at once she exclaimed : 

" You are talking there of Monsieur Madeleine ! why do you 
talk so low? what has he done? why does he not come? " 

Her voice was so harsh and rough that the two women 


Wash this linen. " Where? " In the river. 

Make of it, without spoiling or soiling, 

A pretty skirt, a very long skirt, 

Which I will broider and fill with flowers. 

" The child is gone, madame, what more ? " 

" Make of it a shroud to bury me." 

We will buy very pretty things 
A walking in the faubourgs. 
Violets are blue, roses are red. 
Violets are blue, I love my loves. 

Famine 245 

thought they heard the voice of a man; they turned towards 
her affrighted. 

" Why don't you answer? " cried Fantine. 

The servant stammered out: 

" The portress told me that he could not come to-day." 

" My child," said the sister, " be calm, lie down again." 

Fantine, without changing her attitude, resumed with a loud 
voice, and in a tone at once piercing and imperious : 

" He cannot come. Why not? You know the reason. You 
were whispering it there between you. I want to know." 

The servant whispered quickly in the nun's ear: "Answer 
that he is busy with the City Council." 

Sister Simplice reddened slightly ; it was a lie that the servant 
had proposed to her. On the other hand, it did seem to her 
that to tell the truth to the sick woman would doubtless be a 
terrible blow, and that it was dangerous in the state in which 
Fantine was. This blush did not last long. The sister turned 
her calm, sad eye upon Fantine, and said : 

" The mayor has gone away." 

Fantine sprang up and sat upon her feet. Her eyes sparkled. 
A marvellous joy spread over that mournful face^ 

" Gone away ! " she exclaimed. " He has gone for Cosette ! " 

Then she stretched her hands towards heaven, and her whole 
countenance became ineffable. Her lips moved; she was pray- 
ing in a whisper. 

When her prayer was ended: " My sister," said she, " I am 
quite willing to lie down again, I will do whatever you wish; I 
was naughty just now, pardon me for having talked so loud; it 
is very bad to talk loud ; I know it, my good sister, but see how 
happy I am. God is kind, Monsieur Madeleine is good; just 
think of it, that he has gone to Montfermeil for my little Cosette." 

She lay down again, helped the nun to arrange the pillow, 
and kissed a little silver cross which she wore at her neck, and 
which Sister Simplice had given her. 

" My child," said the sister, " try to rest now, and do not 
talk any more." 

Fantine took the sister's hand between hers; they were 
moist; the sister was pained to feel it. 

" He started this morning for Paris. Indeed he need not even 
go through Paris. Montfermeil is a little to the left in coming. 
You remember what he said yesterday, when I spoke to him 
about Cosette : Very soon, very soon I This is a surprise he has 
for me. You know he had me sign a letter to take her away 


Les Miserables 

from the Thenardiers. They will have nothing to say, will they ? 
They will give up Cosette. Because they have their pay. The 
authorities would not let them keep a child when they are paid. 
My sister, do not make signs to me that I must not talk. I am 
very happy, I am doing very well. I have no pain at all, I am 
going to see Cosette again, I am hungry even. For almost five 
years I have not seen her. You do not, you cannot imagine 
what a hold children have upon you ! And then she will be so 
handsome, you will see ! If you knew, she has such pretty little 
rosy fingers! First, she will have very beautiful hands. At a 
year old she had ridiculous hands, so! She must be large 
now. She is seven years old. She is a little lady. I call her 
Cosette, but her name is Euphrasie. Now, this morning I was 
looking at the dust on the mantel, and I had an idea that I 
should see Cosette again very soon! Oh, dear! how wrong it 
is to be years without seeing one's children! We ought to 
remember that life is not eternal! Oh! how good it is in the 
mayor to go true, it is very cold ! He had his cloak, at least ! 
He will be here to-morrow, will he not? That will make 
to-morrow a fete. To-morrow morning, my sister, you will 
remind me to put on my little lace cap. Montfermeil is a 
country place. I made the trip on foot once. It was a long 
way for me. But the diligences go very fast. He will be here 
to-morrow with Cosette! How far is it from here to Mont- 
fermeil? " 

The sister, who had no idea of the distance, answered: " Ohl 
I feel sure that he will be here to-morrow." 

"To-morrow! to-morrow!" said Fantine, "I shall see 
Cosette to-morrow! See, good Sister of God, I am well now. 
I am wild; I would dance, if anybody wanted me to." 

One who had seen her a quarter of an hour before could not 
have understood this. Now she was all rosy; she talked in a 
lively, natural tone; her whole face was only a smile. At 
times jshe laughed while whispering to herself. A mother's joy 
is almost like a child's. 

" Well," resumed the nun, " now you are happy, obey me 
do not talk any more." 

Fan tine laid her head upon the pillow, and said in a low voice : 
" Yes, lie down again; be prudent now that you are going to 
have your child. Sister Simplice is right. All here are right." 

And then, without moving, or turning her head, she began to 
look all about with her eyes wide open and a joyous air, and she 
said nothing more. 

Fantine 247 

The sister closed the curtains, hoping that she would sleep. 

Between seven and eight o'clock the doctor came. Hearing 
no sound, he supposed that Fantine was asleep, went in softly, 
and approached the bed on tiptoe. He drew the curtains aside, 
and by the glimmer of the twilight he saw Fantine's large calm 
eyes looking at him. 

She said to him: " Monsieur, you will let her lie by my side 
in a little bed, won't you? " 

The doctor thought she was delirious. She added: 

" Look, there is just room." 

The doctor took Sister Simplice aside, who explained the 
matter to him, that Monsieur Madeleine was absent for a day 
or two, and that, not being certain, they had not thought it best 
to undeceive the sick woman, who believed the mayor had gone 
to Montfermeil; that it was possible, after all, that she had 
guessed aright. The doctor approved of this. 

He returned to Fantine's bed again, and she continued: 

" Then you see, in the morning, when she wakes, I can say 
good morning to the poor kitten; and at night, when I am 
awake, I can hear her sleep. Her little breathing is so sweet 
it will do me good." 

" Give me your hand," said the doctor. 

She reached out her hand, and exclaimed with a laugh: 

" Oh, stop! Indeed, it is true you don't know! but I am 
cured. Cosette is coming to-morrow." 

The doctor was surprised. She was better. Her languor 
was less. Her pulse was stronger. A sort of new life was all 
at once reanimating this poor exhausted being. 

" Doctor," she continued, " has the sister told you that 
Monsieur the Mayor has gone for the little thing? " 

The doctor recommended silence, and that she should avoid 
all painful emotion. He prescribed an infusion of pure quinine, 
and, in case the fever should return in the night, a soothing 
potion. As he was going away he said to the sister: " She is 
better. If by good fortune the mayor should really come back 
to-morrow with the child, who knows? there are such astonish- 
ing crises; we have seen great joy instantly cure diseases; I am 
well aware that this is an organic disease, and far advanced, but 
this is all such a mystery ! We shall save her perhaps ! " 

248 Les Miserables 



IT was nearly eight o'clock in the evening when the carriole 
which we left on the road drove into the yard of the Hotel de la 
Poste at Arras. The man whom we have followed thus far, 
got out, answered the hospitalities of the inn's people with an 
absent-minded air, sent back the extra horse, and took the 
little white one to the stable himself; then he opened the door 
of a billiard-room on the first floor, took a seat, and leaned his 
elbows on the table. He had spent fourteen hours in this trip, 
which he expected to make in six. He did himself the justice 
to feel that it was not his fault; but at bottom he was not sorry 
for it. 

The landlady entered. 

" Will monsieur have a bed? will monsieur have supper? " 

He shook his head. 

" The stable-boy says that monsieur's horse is very tired! " 

Here he broke silence. 

" Is not the horse able to start again to-morrow morning? " 

"Oh! monsieur! he needs at least two days' rest." 

He asked: 

" Is not the Bureau of the Post here? " 

" Yes, sir." 

The hostess led him to the Bureau; he showed his passport 
and inquired if there were an opportunity to return that very 

night to M sur M by the mail coach; only one seat was 

vacant, that by the side of the driver; he retained it and paid 
for .it. " Monsieur," said the booking clerk, " don't fail to be 
here/eady to start at precisely one o'clock in the morning." 

This done, he left the hotel and began to walk in the city. 

He was not acquainted in Arras, the streets were dark, and he 
went haphazard. Nevertheless he seemed to refrain obstinately 
from asking his way. He crossed the little river Crinchon, and 
found himself in a labyrinth of narrow streets, where he was 
soon lost. A citizen came along with a lantern. After some 
hesitation, he determined to speak to this man, but not until he 
had looked before and behind, as if he were afraid that somebody 
might overhear the question he was about to ask. 

Fantinc 249 

" Monsieur," said he, " the court house, if you please? " 

" You are not a resident of the city, monsieur," answered the 
citizen, who was an old man, " well, follow me, I am going right 
by the court house, that is to say, the city hall. For they are 
repairing the court house just now, and the courts are holding 
their sessions at the city hall, temporarily." 

" Is it there," asked he, " that the assizes are held? " 

" Certainly, monsieur; you see, what is the city hall to-day 
was the bishop's palace before the revolution. Monsieur de 
Conzie, who was bishop in 'eighty-two, had a large hall built. 
The court is held in that hall." 

As they walked along, the citizen said to him: 

" If monsieur wishes to see a trial, he is rather late. Ordin- 
arily the sessions close at six o'clock." 

However, when they reached the great square, the citizen 
showed him four long lighted windows on the front of a vast 
dark building. 

" Faith, monsieur, you are in time, you are fortunate. Do 
you see those four windows? that is the court of assizes. 
There is a light there. Then they have not finished. The case 
must have been prolonged and they are having an evening 
session. Are you interested in this case? Is it a criminal trial ? 
Are you a witness ? " 

He answered : 

" I have no business; I only wish to speak to a lawyer." 

" That's another thing," said the citizen. " Stop, monsieur, 
here is the door. The doorkeeper is up there. You have only 
to go up the grand stairway." 

He followed the citizen's instructions, and in a few minutes 
found himself in a hall where there were many people, and 
scattered groups of lawyers in their robes whispering here and 

It is always a chilling sight to see these gatherings of men 
clothed in black, talking among themselves in a low voice on 
the threshold of the chamber of justice. 

It is rare that charity and pity can be found in their words. 
What are oftenest heard are sentences pronounced in advance. 
All these groups seem to the observer, who passes musingly by, 
like so many gloomy hives where buzzing spirits are building in 
common all sorts of dark structures. 

This hall, which, though spacious, was lighted by a single 
lamp, was an ancient hall of the Episcopal palace, and served 
as a waiting-room. A double folding door, which was now 

250 Les Miserables 

closed, separated it from the large room in which the court of 
assizes was in session. 

The obscurity was such that he felt no fear in addressing the 
first lawyer whom he met. 

" Monsieur/' said he, " how are they getting along? " 

" It is finished," said the lawyer. 


The word was repeated in such a tone that the lawyer turned 

" Pardon me, monsieur, you are a relative, perhaps? " 

" No. I know no one here. And was there a sentence? " 

" Of course. It was hardly possible for it to be otherwise." 

"To hard labour?" 

" For life." 

He continued in a voice so weak that it could hardly be heard : 

" The identity was established, then ? " 

" What identity ? " responded the lawyer. " There was no 
identity to be established. It was a simple affair. This woman 
had killed her child, the infanticide was proven, the jury were 
not satisfied that there was any premeditation; she was 
sentenced for life." 

" It is a woman, then? " said he. 

" Certainly. The Limosin girl. What else are you speaking 

" Nothing, but if it is finished, why is the hall still lighted up ? " 

" That is for the other case, which commenced nearly two 
hours ago." 

" What other case ? " 

" Oh ! that is a clear one also. It is a sort of a thief, a second 
offender, a galley slave, a case of robbery. I forget his name. 
He looks like a bandit. Were it for nothing but having such a 
face, I would send him to the galleys." 

" Monsieur," asked he, " is there any means of getting into 
the hall?" 

" I think not, really. There is, a great crowd. However, they 
are taking a recess. Some people have come out, and when the 
session is resumed, you can try." 

" How do you get in ? " 

" Through that large door." 

The lawyer left him. In a few moments, he had undergone, 
almost at the same time, almost together, all possible emotions. 
The words of this indifferent man had alternately pierced his 
heart like icicles and like flames of fire. When he learned that 

Fantinc 251 

it was not concluded, he drew breath; but he could not have 
told whether what he felt was satisfaction or pain. 

He approached several groups and listened to their talk. 
The calendar of the term being very heavy, the judge had set 
down two short, simple cases for that day. They had begun 
with the infanticide, and now were on the convict, the second 
offender, the " old stager." This man had stolen some apples, 
but that did no't appear to be very well proven; what was 
proven, was that he had been in the galleys at Toulon. This 
was what ruined his case. The examination of the man had been 
finished, and the testimony of the witnesses had been taken; 
but there yet remained the argument of the counsel, and the 
summing up of his prosecuting attorney; it would hardly be 
finished before midnight. The man would probably be con- 
demned; the prosecuting attorney was very good, and never 
failed with his prisoners ; he was a fellow of talent, who wrote 

An officer stood near the door which opened into the court- 
room. He asked this officer: 

" Monsieur, will the door be opened soon ? " 

" It will not be opened," said the officer. 

" How ! it will not be opened when the session is resumed ? 
is there not a recess? " 

" The session has just been resumed," answered the officer, 
" but the door will not be opened again." 

"Why not?" 

" Because the hall is full." 

" What! there are no more seats? " 

" Not a single one. The door is closed. No one can enter." 

The officer added, after a silence : " There are indeed two or 
three places still behind Monsieur the Judge, but Monsieur the 
Judge admits none but public functionaries to them." 

So saying, the officer turned his back. 

He retired with his head bowed down, crossed the ante- 
chamber, and walked slowly down the staircase, seeming to 
hesitate at every step. It is probable that he was holding 
counsel with himself. The violent combat that had been going 
on within him since the previous evening was not finished ; and, 
every moment, he fell upon some new turn. When he reached 
the turn of the stairway, he leaned against the railing and 
folded his arms. Suddenly he opened his coat, drew out his 
pocket-book, took out a pencil, tore out a sheet, and wrote 
rapidly upon that sheet by t')e glimmering light, this line: 

252 Les Miserables 

Monsieur Madeleine, Mayor of M sur M ; then he 

went up the stairs again rapidly, passed through the crowd, 
walked straight to the officer, handed him the paper, and said 
to him with authority: " Carry that to Monsieur the Judge." 
The officer took the paper, cast his eye upon it, and obeyed. 


WITHOUT himself suspecting it, the Mayor of M sur M 

had a certain celebrity. For seven years the reputation of his 
virtue had been extending throughout Bas-Boulonnais ; it had 
finally crossed the boundaries of the little county, and had 
spread into the two or three neighbouring departments. Besides 
the considerable service that he had rendered to the chief town 
by reviving the manufacture of jet-work, there was not one of 

the hundred and forty-one communes of the district of M 

sur M which was not indebted to him for some benefit. He 

had even in case of need aided and quickened the business of 
the other districts. Thus he had, in time of need, sustained 
with his credit and with his own funds the tulle factory at 
Boulogne, the flax-spinning factory at Prevent, and the linen 
factory at Boubers-sur-Canche. Everywhere the name of 
Monsieur Madeleine was spoken with veneration. Arras and 
Douai envied the lucky little city of M sur M its mayor. 

The Judge of the Royal Court of Douai, who was holding this 
term of the assizes at Arras, was familiar, as well as everybody 
else, with this name so profoundly and so universally honoured. 
When the officer, quietly opening the door which led from the 
counsel chamber to the court room, bent behind the judge's 
chair and handed him the paper, on which was written the line we 
have just read, adding: " This gentleman desires to witness the 
trial , " the judge made a hast^ movement of deference, seized 
a pen, wrote a few words at the bottom of the paper and handed 
it back to the officer, saying to him: " Let him enter." 

The unhappy man, whose history we are relating, had re- 
mained near the door of the hall, in the same place and the same 
attitude as when the officer left him. He heard, through his 
thoughts, some one saying to him: " Will monsieur do me the 
honour to follow me?" It was the same officer who had 
turned his back upon him the minute before, and who now 

Fantine 253 

bowed to the earth before him. The officer at the same time 
handed him the paper. He unfolded it, and, as he happened 
to be near the lamp, he could read : 

" The Judge of the Court of Assizes presents his respects to 
Monsieur Madeleine." 

He crushed the paper in his hands, as if those few words had 
left some strange and bitter taste behind. 

He followed the officer. 

In a few minutes he found himself alone in a kind of panelled 
cabinet, of a severe appearance, lighted by two wax candles 
placed upon a table covered with green cloth. The last words 
of the officer who had left him still rang in his ear: " Monsieur, 
you are now in the counsel chamber ; you have but to turn the 
brass knob of that door and you will find yourself in the court 
room, behind the judge's chair." These words were associated 
in his thoughts with a vague remembrance of the narrow 
corridors and dark stairways through which he had just passed. 

The officer had left him alone. The decisive moment had 
arrived. He endeavoured to collect his thoughts, but did not 
succeed. At those hours especially when we have sorest need 
of grasping the sharp realities of life do the threads of thought 
snap off in the brain. He was in the very place where the judges 
deliberate and decide. He beheld with a stupid tranquillity 
that silent and formidable room where so many existences had 
been terminated, where his own name would be heard so soon, 
and which his destiny was crossing at this moment. He looked 
at the walls, then he looked at himself, astonished that this 
could be this chamber, and that this could be he. 

He had eaten nothing for more than twenty-four hours; he 
was bruised by the jolting of the carriole, but he did not feel it; 
it seemed to him that he felt nothing. 

He examined a black frame which hung on the wall, and which 
contained under glass an old autograph letter of Jean Nicolas 
Pache, Mayor of Paris, and Minister, dated, doubtless by 
mistake, June 9th, year II., in which Pache sent to the Commune 
the list of the ministers and deputies held in arrest within their 
limits. A spectator, had he seen and watched him then, would 
have imagined, doubtless, that this letter appeared very remark- 
able to him, for he did not take his eyes off from it, and he read 
it two or three times. He was reading without paying any 
attention, and without knowing what he was doing. He was 
thinking of Fantine and Cosette. 

Even while musing, he turned unconsciously, and his eyes 

254 Les Miserables 

encountered the brass knob of the door which separated him 
from the hall of the assizes. He had almost forgotten that 
door. His countenance, at first calm, now fell. His eyes were 
fixed on that brass knob, then became set and wild and little by 
little filled with dismay. Drops of sweat started out from his 
head, and rolled down over his temples. 

At one moment he made, with a kind of authority united to 
rebellion, that indescribable gesture which means and which 
so well says : Well I who is there to compel me 1 Then he turned 
quickly, saw before him the door by which he had entered, went 
to it, opened it, and went out. He was no longer in that room; 
he was outside, in a corridor, a long, narrow corridor, cut up 
with steps and side-doors, making all sorts of angles, lighted 
here and there by lamps hung on the wall similar to nurse- 
lamps for the sick; it was the corridor by which he had come. 
He drew breath and listened; no sound behind him, no sound 
before him; he ran as if he were pursued. 

When he had doubled several of the turns of this passage, he 
listened again. There was still the same silence and the same 
shadow about him. He was out of breath, he tottered, he 
leaned against the wall. The stone was cold; the sweat was 
icy upon his forehead; he roused himself with a shudder. 

Then and there, alone, standing in that obscurity, trembling 
with cold and, perhaps, with something else, he reflected. 

He had reflected all night, he had reflected all day; he now 
heard but one voice within him, which said : " Alas ! " 

A quarter of an hour thus rolled away. Finally, he bowed 
his head, sighed with anguish, let his arms fall, and retraced his 
steps. He walked slowly and as if overwhelmed. It seemed 
as if he had been caught in his flight and brought back. 

He entered the counsel chamber again. The first thing that 
he saw was the handle of the door. That handle, round and of 
polished brass, shone out before him like an ominous star. He 
looked at it as a lamb might look at the eye of a tiger. 

His eyes could not move from it. 

From time to time, he took another step towards the door. 

Had he listened, he would have heard, as a kind of confused 
murmur, the noise of the neighbouring hall; but he did not 
listen and he did not hear. 

Suddenly, without himself knowing how, he found himself 
near the door, he seized the knob convulsively ; the door opened. 

He was in the court room. 

Fantinc 255 



HE took a step, closed the door behind him, mechanically, and 
remained standing, noting what he saw. 

It was a large hall, dimly lighted, and noisy and silent by 
turns, where all the machinery of a criminal trial was exhibited, 
with its petty, yet solemn gravity, before the multitude. 

At one end of the hall, that at which he found himself, heed- 
less judges, in threadbare robes, were biting their finger-nails, 
or closing their eyelids ; at the other end was a ragged rabble ; 
there were lawyers in all sorts of attitudes; soldiers with honest 
and hard faces; old, stained wainscoting, a dirty ceiling, tables 
covered with serge, which was more nearly yellow than green ; 
doors blackened by finger-marks; tavern lamps, giving more 
smoke than light, on nails in the panelling; candles, in brass 
candlesticks, on the tables ; everywhere obscurity, unsightliness, 
and gloom; and from all this there arose an austere and august 
impression; for men felt therein the presence of that great 
human thing which is called law, and that great divine thing 
which is called justice. 

No man in this multitude paid any attention to him. All 
eyes converged on a single point, a wooden bench placed against 
a little door, along the wall at the left hand of the judge. Upon 
this bench, which was lighted by several candles, was a man 
between two gendarmes. 

This was the man. 

He did not look for him, he saw him. His eyes went towards 
him naturally, as if they had known in advance where he was. 

He thought he saw himself, older, doubtless, not precisely 
the same in features, but alike in attitude and appearance, with 
that bristling hair, with those wild and restless eyeballs, with 

that blouse just as he was on the day he entered D , full 

of hatred, and concealing in his soul that hideous hoard of fright- 
ful thoughts which he had spent nineteen years in gathering 
upon the floor of the galleys. 

He said to himself, with a shudder : " Great God ! shall I 
again come to this? " 

This being appeared at least sixty years old. There was 
something indescribably rough, stupid, and terrified in his 


Les Miserables 

At the sound of the door, people had stood aside to make room. 
The judge had turned his head, and supposing the person who 

entered to be the mayor of M sur M r, greeted him with 

a bow. The prosecuting attorney, who had seen Madeleine at 

M sur M , whither he had been called more than once 

by the duties of his office, recognised him and bowed likewise. 
He scarcely perceived them. He gazed about him, a prey to a 
sort of hallucination. 

Judges, clerk, gendarmes, a throng of heads, cruelly curious 
he had seen all these once before, twenty-seven years ago. He 
had fallen again upon these fearful things; they were before 
him, they moved, they had being; it was no longer an effort of 
his memory, a mirage of his fancy, but real gendarmes and real 
judges, a real throng, and real men of flesh and bone. It was 
done; he saw reappearing and living again around him, with 
all the frightfulness of reality, the monstrous visions of the past. 

All this was yawning before him. 

Stricken with horror, he closed his eyes, and exclaimed from 
the depths of his soul : "Never!" 

And by a tragic sport of destiny, which was agitating all his 
ideas and rendering him almost insane, it was another self 
before him. This man on trial was called by all around him, 
Jean Valjean ! 

He had before his eyes an unheard-of vision, a sort of repre- 
sentation of the most horrible moment of his life, played by his 

All, everything was there the same paraphernalia, the same 
hour of the night almost the same faces, judge and assistant 
judges, soldiers and spectators. But above the head of the 
judge was a crucifix, a thing which did not appear in court 
rooms at the time of his sentence. When he was tried, God 
was not there. 

A chair was behind him; he sank into it, terrified at the idea 
that he might be observed. When seated, he took advantage 
of a pile of papers on the judges' desk to hide his face from the 
whole room. He could now see without being seen. He 
entered fully into the spirit of the reality; by degrees he re- 
covered his composure, and arrived at that degree of calmness 
at which it is possible to listen. 

Monsieur Bamatabois was one of the jurors. 

He looked for Javert, but did not see him. The witnesses' 
seat was hidden from him by the clerk's table. And then, as 
we have just said, the hall was very dimly lighted. 

Fantine 257 

At the moment of his entrance, the counsel for the prisoner 
was finishing his plea. The attention of all was excited to the 
highest degree; the trial had been in progress for three hours. 
During these three hours,, the spectators had seen a man, an 
unknown, wretched being, thoroughly stupid or thoroughly 
artful, gradually bending beneath the weight of a terrible prob- 
ability. This man, as is already known, was a vagrant who had 
been found in a field, carrying off a branch, laden with ripe 
apples, which had been broken from a tree in a neighbouring 
close called the Pierron inclosure. Who was this man? An 
examination had been held, witnesses had been heard, they had 
been unanimous, light had been elicited from every portion of 
the trial. The prosecution said : " We have here not merely a 
fruit thief, a marauder; we have here, in our hands, a bandit, 
an outlaw who has broken his ban, an old convict, a most 
dangerous wretch, a malefactor, called Jean Valjean, of whom 
justice has been long in pursuit, and who, eight years ago, on 
leaving the galleys at Toulon, committed a highway robbery, 
with force and arms, upon the person of a youth of Savoy, Petit 
Gervais by name, a crime which is specified in Article 383 of the 
Penal Code, and for which we reserve the right of further pro- 
secution when his identity shall be judicially established. He 
has now committed a new theft. It is a case of second offence. 
Convict him for the new crime ; he will be tried hereafter for the 
previous one." Before this accusation, before the unanimity 
of the witnesses, the principal emotion evinced by the accused 
was astonishment. He made gestures and signs which signified 
denial, or he gazed at the ceiling. He spoke with difficulty, and 
answered with embarrassment, but from head to foot, his whole 
person denied the charge. He seemed like an idiot in the 
presence of all these intellects ranged in battle around him, and 
like a stranger in the midst of this society by whom he had been 
seized. Nevertheless, a most threatening future awaited him; 
probabilities increased every moment; and every spectator 
was looking with more anxiety than himself for the calamitous 
sentence which seemed to be hanging over his head with ever 
increasing surety. One contingency even gave a glimpse of the 
possibility, beyond the galleys, of a capital penalty should his 
identity be established, and the Petit Gervais affair result in 
his conviction. Who was this man ? What was the nature of 
his apathy? Was it imbecility or artifice? Did he know too 
much or nothing at all? These were questions upon which the 
spectators took sides, and which seemed to affect the jury. 
i i 

258 Les Miserables 

There was something fearful and something mysterious in the 
trial; the drama was not merely gloomy, but it was obscure. 

The counsel for the defence had made a very good plea in that 
provincial language which long constituted the eloquence of the 
bar, and which was formerly employed by all lawyers, at Paris 
as well as at Romorantin or Montbrison, but which, having now 
become classic, is used by few except the official orators of the 
bar, to whom it is suited by its solemn rotundity and majestic 
periods; a language in which husband and wife are called 
spouses, Paris, the centre of arts and civilisation, the king, the 
monarch, a bishop, a holy pontiff, the prosecuting attorney, the 
eloquent interpreter of the vengeance of the law, arguments, the 
accents which we have fust heard, the time of Louis XIV., the 
illustrious age, a theatre, the temple of Melpomene, the reigning 
family, the august blood of our kings, a concert, a musical 
solemnity, the general in command, the illustrious warrior who, 
etc., students of theology, those tender Levites, mistakes imputed 
to newspapers, the imposture which distils its venom into the 
columns of these organs, etc., etc. The counsel for the defence 
had begun by expatiating on the theft of the apples, a thing 
ill suited to a lofty style ; but Benign Bossuet himself was once 
compelled to make allusion to a hen in the midst of a funeral 
oration, and acquitted himself with dignity. The counsel estab- 
lished that the theft of the apples was not in fact proved. His 
client, whom in his character of counsel he persisted in calling 
Champmathieu, had not been seen to scale the wall or break off 
the branch. He had been arrested in possession of this branch 
(which the counsel preferred to call bough}; but he said that he 
had found it on the ground. Where was the proof to the con- 
trary? Undoubtedly this branch had been broken and carried 
off after the scaling of the wall, then thrown away by the 
alarmed marauder; undoubtedly, there had been a thief. But 
what evidence was there that this thief was Champmathieu? 
One single thing. That he was formerly a convict. The 
counsel would not deny that this fact unfortunately appeared 
to be fully proved ; the defendant had resided at Faverolles ; the 
defendant had been a primer, the name of Champmathieu might 
well have had its origin in that of Jean Mathieu ; all this was true, 
and finally, four witnesses had positively and without hesitation 
identified Champmathieu as the galley slave, Jean Valjean; 
to these circumstances and this testimony the counsel could 
oppose nothing but the denial of his client, an interested denial ; 
but even supposing him to be the convict Jean Valjean, did this 

Fantine 259 

prove that he had stolen the apples? that was a presumption 
at most, not a proof. The accused, it was true, and the counsel 
" in good faith " must admit it, had adopted " a mistaken 
system of defence." He had persisted in denying everything, 
both the theft and the fact that he had been a convict. An 
avowal on the latter point would have been better certainly, 
and would have secured to him the indulgence of the judges; 
the counsel had advised him to this course, but the defendant 
had obstinately refused, expecting probably to escape punish- 
ment entirely, by admitting nothing. It was a mistake, but 
must not the poverty of his intellect be taken into consideration ? 
The man was evidently imbecile. Long suffering in the galleys, 
long suffering out of the galleys, had brutalised him, etc., etc. ; if 
he made a bad defence, was this a reason for convicting him? 
As to the Petit Gervais affair, the counsel had nothing to say, it 
was not in the case. He concluded by entreating the jury and 
court, if the identity of Jean Valjean appeared evident to them, 
to apply to him the police penalties prescribed for the breaking 
of ban, and not the fearful punishment decreed to the convict 
found guilty of a second offence. 

The prosecuting attorney replied to the counsel for the 
defence. He was violent and flowery, like most prosecuting 

He complimented the counsel for his " frankness," of which 
he shrewdly took advantage. He attacked the accused through 
all the concessions which his counsel had made. The counsel 
seemed to admit that the accused was Jean Valjean. He 
accepted the admission. This man then was Jean Valjean. 
This fact was conceded to the prosecution, and could be no longer 
contested. Here, by an adroit autonomasia, going back to the 
sources and causes of crime, the prosecuting attorney thundered 
against the immorality of the romantic school then in its 
dawn, under the name of the Satanic school, conferred upon it 
by the critics of the Quotidienne and the Oriftamme ; and he 
attributed, not without plausibility, to the influence of this 
perverse literature, the crime of Champmathieu, or rather of 
Jean Valjean. These considerations exhausted, he passed to 
Jean Valjean himself. Who was Jean Valjean? Description 
of Jean Valjean: a monster vomited, etc. The model of all 
such descriptions may be found in the story of TheVamene, 
which as tragedy is useless, but which does great service in 
judicial eloquence every day. The auditory and the jury 
" shuddered." This description finished, the prosecuting 

260 Les Miserables 

attorney resumed with an oratorical burst, designed to excite 
the enthusiasm of the Journal de la Prefecture to the highest 
pitch next morning. " And it is such a man," etc. etc. A 
vagabond, a mendicant, without means of existence, etc., etc. 
Accustomed through his existence to criminal acts, and pro- 
fiting little by his past life in the galleys, as is proved by the 
crime committed upon Petit Gervais, etc., etc. It is such a 
man who, found on the highway in the very act of theft, a few 
paces from a wall that had been scaled, still holding in his hand 
the subject of his crime., denies the act in which he is caught, 
denies the theft, denies the escalade, denies everything, denies 
even his name, denies even his identity! Besides a hundred 
other proofs, to which we will not return, he is identified by 
four witnesses Javert the incorruptible inspector of police, 
Javert and three of his former companions in disgrace, the 
convicts Brevet, Chenildieu, and Cochepaille. What has he to 
oppose to this overwhelming unanimity? His denial. What 
depravity ! You will do justice, gentlemen of the jury, etc., etc. 
While the prosecuting attorney was speaking the accused listened 
open-mouthed, with a sort of astonishment, not unmingled 
with admiration. He was evidently surprised that a man could 
speak so well. From time to time, at the most " forcible " 
parts of the argument, at those moments when eloquence, 
unable to contain itself, overflows in a stream of withering 
epithets, and surrounds the prisoner like a tempest, he slowly 
moved his head from right to left, and from left to right a 
sort of sad, mute protest, with which he contented himself from 
the beginning of the argument. Two or three times the spec- 
tators nearest him heard him say in a low tone: "This all 
comes from not asking for Monsieur Baloup ! The prosecuting 
attorney pointed out to the jury this air of stupidity, which was 
evidently put on, and which denoted, not imbecility, but address, 
artifice, and the habit of deceiving justice; and which showed 
in its full light the " deep-rooted perversity " of the man. He 
concluded by reserving entirely the Petit Gervais affair, and 
demanding a sentence to the full extent of the law. 

This was, for this offence, as will be remembered, hard labour 
for life. 

The counsel for the prisoner rose, commenced by compli- 
menting " Monsieur, the prosecuting attorney, on his admirable 
argument," then replied as best he could, but in a weaker tone; 
the ground was evidently giving way under him. 

Fantine 261 



THE time had come for closing the case. The judge commanded 
the accused to rise, and put the usual question: "Have you 
anything to add to your defence? " 

The man, standing, and twirling in his hands a hideous cap 
which he had, seemed not to hear. 

The judge repeated the question. 

This time the man heard, and appeared to comprehend. 
He started like one awaking from sleep, cast his eyes around 
him, looked at the spectators, the gendarmes, his counsel, the 
jurors, and the court, placed his huge fist on the bar before him, 
looked around again, and suddenly fixing his eyes upon the 
prosecuting attorney, began to speak. It was like an eruption. 
It seemed from the manner in which the words escaped his lips, 
incoherent, impetuous, jostling each other pell-mell, as if they 
were all eager to find vent at the same time. He said : 

" I have this to say : That I have been a wheelwright at 
Paris ; that it was at M. Baloup's too. It is a hard life to be a 
wheelwright, you always work out-doors, in yards, under sheds 
when you have good bosses, never in shops, because you must 
have room, you see. In the winter, it is so cold that you thresh 
your arms to warm them; but the bosses won't allow that; 
they say it is a waste of time. It is tough work to handle iron 
when there is ice on the pavements. It wears a man out quick. 
You get old when you are young at this trade. A man is used 
up by forty. I was fifty-three; I was sick a good deal. And 
then the workmen are so bad ! When a poor fellow isn't young, 
they always call you old bird, and old beast! I earned only 
thirty sous a day, they paid me as little as they could the 
bosses took advantage of my age. Then I had my daughter, 
who was a washerwoman at the river. She earned a little fai 
herself; between us two, we got on; she had hard work toe*. 
All day long up to the waist in a tub, in rain, in snow, with 
wind that cuts your face when it freezes, it is all the same, the 
washing must be done ; there are folks who hav'n't much linen 
and are waiting for it; if you don't wash you lose your customers. 
The planks are not well matched, and the water falls on you 
everywhere. You get your clothes wet through and through; 
that strikes in. She washed too in the laundry of the Eniants- 

262 Les Miserables 

Rouges, where the water comes in through pipes. There you 
are not in the tub. You wash before you under the pipe, and 
rinse behind you in the trough. This is under cover, and you are 
not so cold. But there is a hot lye that is terrible and ruins your 
eyes. She would come home at seven o'clock at night, and go to 
bed right away, she was so tired. Her husband used to beat her. 
She is dead. We wasn't very happy. She was a good girl; 
she never went to balls, and was very quiet. I remember one 
Shrove Tuesday she went to bed at eight o'clock. Look here, 
I am telling the truth. You have only to ask if 'tisn't so. 
Ask! how stupid I am! Paris is a gulf. Who is there that 
knows Father Champmathieu ? But there is M. Baloup. Go 
and see M. Baloup. I don't know what more you want of me." 

The man ceased speaking, but did not sit down. He had 
uttered these sentences in a loud, rapid, hoarse, harsh, and 
guttural tone, with a sort of angry and savage simplicity. 
Once, he stopped to bow to somebody in the crowd. The sort 
of affirmations which he seemed to fling out haphazard, came 
from him like hiccoughs, and he added to each the gesture of a 
man chopping wood. When he had finished, the auditory 
burst into laughter. He looked at them, and seeing them 
laughing and not knowing why, began to laugh himself. 

That was an ill omen. 

The judge, considerate and kindly man, raised his voice: 

He reminded " gentlemen of the jury " that M. Baloup, the 
former master wheelwright by whom the prisoner said he had 
been employed, had been summoned, but had not appeared. 
He had become bankrupt, and could not be found. Then, 
turning to the accused, he adjured him to listen to what he was 
about to say, and added : " You are in a position which 
demands reflection. The gravest presumptions are weighing 
against you, and may lead to fatal results. Prisoner, on your 
own behalf, I question you a second time, explain yourself 
clearly on these two points. First, did you or did you not 
climb the wall of the Pierron close, break off the branch and 
steal the apples, that is to say, commit the crime of theft, with 
the addition of breaking into an inclosure? Secondly, are you 
or are you not the discharged convict, JeanValjean ? " 

The prisoner shook his head with a knowing look, like a man 
who understands perfectly, and knows what he is going to say 
He opened his mouth, turned towards the presiding judge, and 

" In the first place " 

Fantine 263 

Then he looked at his cap, looked up at the ceiling, and was 

" Prisoner," resumed the prosecuting attorney, in an austere 
tone, " give attention. You have replied to nothing that has 
been asked you. Your agitation condemns you. It is evident 
that your name is not Champmathieu, but that you are the 
convict, Jean Valjean, disguised under the name at first, of 
Jean Mathieu, which was that of his mother; that you have 
lived in Auvergne; that you were born at Faverolles, where 
you were a pruner. It is evident that you have stolen ripe 
apples from the Pierron close, with the addition of breaking 
into the inclosure. The gentlemen of the jury will consider 

The accused had at last resumed his seat; he rose abruptly 
when the prosecuting attorney had ended, and exclaimed: 

" You are a very bad man, you, I mean. This is what I 
wanted to say. I couldn't think of it first off. I never stole 
anything. I am a man who don't get something to eat every day. 
I was coming from Ailly, walking alone after a shower, which had 
made the ground all yellow with mud, so that the ponds were 
running over, and you only saw little sprigs of grass sticking 
out of the sand along the road, and I found a broken branch on 
the ground with apples on it; and I picked it up not knowing 
what trouble it would give me. It is three months that I have 
been in prison, being knocked about. More'n that, I can't tell. 
You talk against me and tell me ' answer ! ' The gendarme, 
who is a good fellow, nudges my elbow, and whispers, ' answer 
now.' I can't explain myself; I never studied; I am a poor 
man. You are all wrong not to see that I didn't steal. I 
picked up off the ground things that was there. You talk 
about Jean Valjean, Jean Mathieu I don't know any such 
people. They must be villagers. I have worked for Monsieur 
Baloup, Boulevard de 1'Hopital. My name is Champmathieu. 
You must be very sharp to tell me where I was born. I don't 
know myself. Everybody can't have houses to be born in; 
that would be too handy. I think my father and mother were 
strollers, but I don't know. When I was a child they called me 
Little One ; now, they call me Old Man. They're my Christian 
names. Take them as you like. I have been in Auvergne, I 
have been at Faverolles. Bless me ! can't a man have been in 
Auvergne and Faverolles without having been at the galleys? 
I tell you I never stole, and that I am Father Champmathieu. 
I have been at Monsieur Baloup's; I lived in his house. I am 

264 Les Miserablcs 

tired of your everlasting nonsense. What is everybody after me 
for like a mad dog ? " 

The prosecuting attorney was still standing; he addressed 
the judge: 

" Sir, in the presence of the confused but very adroit denega- 
tions of the accused, who endeavours to pass for an idiot, but 
who will not succeed in it we will prevent him we request that it 
may please you and the court to call again within the bar, the con- 
victs, Brevet, Cochepaille, and Chenildieu, and police-inspector 
Javert, and to submit them to a final interrogation, concerning 
the identity of the accused with the convict Jean Valjean." 

" I must remind the prosecuting attorney," said the presiding 
judge, " that police-inspector Javert, recalled by his duties to 
the chief town of a neighbouring district, left the hall, and the 
city also, as soon as his testimony was taken. We granted him 
this permission, with the consent of the prosecuting attorney 
and the counsel of the accused." 

"True," replied the prosecuting attorney; "in the absence 
of Monsieur Javert, I think it a duty to recall to the gentlemen 
of the jury what he said here a few hours ago. Javert is an 
estimable man, who does honour to inferior but important 
functions, by his rigorous and strict probity. These are the 
terms in which he testified : ' I do not need even moral presump- 
tions and material proofs to contradict the denials of the accused. 
I recognise him perfectly. This man's name is not Champ- 
mathieu; he is a convict, Jean Valjean, very hard, and much 
feared. He was liberated at the expiration of his term, but 
with extreme regret. He served out nineteen years at hard 
labour for burglary; five or six times he attempted to escape. 
Besides the Petit Gervais and Pierron robberies, I suspect him 
also of a robbery committed on his highness, the late Bishop of 

D . I often saw him when I was adjutant of the galley 

guard at Toulon. I repeat it; I recognise him perfectly.' " 

This declaration, in terms so precise, appeared to produce a 
strong impression upon the public and jury. The prosecuting 
attorney concluded by insisting that, in the absence of Javert, 
the three witnesses, Brevet, Chenildieu, and Cochepaille, should 
be heard anew and solemnly interrogated. 

The judge gave an order to an officer, and a moment after- 
wards the door of the witness-room opened, and the officer, 
accompanied by a gendarme ready to lend assistance, led in the 
convict Brevet. The audience was in breathless suspense, and 
all hearts palpitated as if they contained but a single soul. 

Fantine 265 

The old convict Brevet was clad in the black and grey jacket 
of the central prisons. Brevet was about sixty years old; he 
had the face of a man of business, and the air of a rogue. They 
sometimes go together. He had become something like a turn- 
key in the prison to which he had been brought by new mis- 
deeds. He was one of those men of whom their superiors are 
wont to say, " He tries to make himself useful." The chaplain 
bore good testimony to his religious habits. It must not be 
forgotten that this happened under the Restoration. 

" Brevet/' said the judge, " you have suffered infamous 
punishment, and cannot take an oath." 

Brevet cast down his eyes. 

" Nevertheless," continued the judge, " even in the man 
whom the law has degraded there may remain, if divine justice 
permit, a sentiment of honour and equity. To that sentiment 
I appeal in this decisive hour. If it still exist in you, as I hope, 
reflect before you answer me; consider on the one hand this 
man, whom a word from you may destroy; on the other hand, 
justice, which a word from you may enlighten. The moment 
is a solemn one, and there is still time to retract if you think 
yourself mistaken. Prisoner, rise. Brevet, look well upon the 
prisoner; collect your remembrances, and say, on your soul and 
conscience, whether you still recognise this man as your former 
comrade in the galleys, Jean Valjean." 

Brevet looked at the prisoner, then turned again to the court. 

" Yes, your honour, I was the first to recognise him, and still 
do so. This man is Jean Valjean, who came to Toulon in 1796, 
and left in 1815. I left a year after. He looks like a brute now, 
but he must have grown stupid with age ; at the galleys he was 
sullen. I recognise him now, positively." 

" Sit down," said the judge. " Prisoner, remain standing." 

Chenildieu was brought in, a convict for life, as was shown by 
his red cloak and green cap. He was undergoing his punish- 
ment in the galleys of Toulon, whence he had been brought for 
this occasion. He was a little man, about fifty years old, active, 
wrinkled, lean, yellow, brazen, restless, with a sort of sickly 
feebleness in his limbs and whole person, and immense force in 
bis eye. His companions in the galleys had nicknamed him 

The judge addressed nearly the same words to him as to 
Brevet. When he reminded him that his infamy had deprived 
him of the right to take an oath, Chenildieu raised his head and 
looked the spectators in the face. The judge requested him to 

266 Les Miserables 

collect his thoughts, and asked him, as he had Brevet, whether 
he still recognised the prisoner. 

Chenildieu burst out laughing. 

" Gad ! do I recognise him ! we were five years on the same 
chain. You're sulky with me, are you, old boy ? " 

" Sit down," said the judge. 

The officer brought in Cochepaille ; this other convict for life, 
brought from the galleys and dressed in red like Chenildieu, was 
a peasant from Lourdes, and a semi-bear of the Pvrenees. He 
had tended flocks in the mountains, and from shepherd had 
glided into brigandage. Cochepaille was not less uncouth than 
the accused, and appeared still more stupid. He was one of 
those unfortunate men whom nature turns out as wild beasts, 
and society finishes up into galley slaves. 

The judge attempted to move him'; by a few serious and 
pathetic words, and asked him, as he had the others, whether 
he still recognised without hesitation or difficulty the man 
standing before him. 

" It is Jean Valjean," said Cochepaille. " The same they 
called Jean-the-Jack, he was so strong." 

Each of the affirmations of these three men, evidently sincere 
and in good faith, had excited in the audience a murmur of evil 
augury for the accused a murmur which increased in force and 
continuance, every time a new declaration was added to the 
preceding one. The prisoner himself listened to them with that 
astonished countenance which, according to the prosecution, was 
his principal means of defence. At the first, the gendarmes by 
his side heard him mutter between his teeth: " Ah, well! there 
is one of them ! " After the second, he said in a louder tone, 
with an air almost of satisfaction, " Good ! " At the third, he 
exclaimed, " Famous! " 

The judge addressed him: 

" Prisoner, you have listened. What have you to say ? " 

He replied : 

" I say famous! " 

A buzz ran through the crowd and almost invaded the jury. 
It was evident that the man was lost. 

" Officers," said the judge, " enforce order. I am about to 
sum up the case." 

At this moment there was a movement near the judge. A 
voice was heard exclaiming: 

" Brevet, Chenildieu, Cochepaille, look this way ! " 

So lamentable and terrible was this voice that those who 

Fantine 267 

heard it felt their blood run cold. All eyes turned towards the 
spot whence it came. A man, who had been sitting among the 
privileged spectators behind the court, had risen, pushed open 
the low door which separated the tribunal from the bar, and was 
standing in the centre of the hall. The judge, the prosecuting 
attorney, Monsieur Bamatabois, twenty persons recognised him, 
and exclaimed at once : 
" Monsieur Madeleine ! " 



IT was he, indeed. The clerk's lamp lighted up his face. He 
held his hat in hand; there was no disorder in his dress; his 
overcoat was carefully buttoned. He was very pale, and 
trembled slightly. His hair, already grey when he came to 
Arras, was now perfectly white. It had become so during the 
hour that he had been there. All eyes were strained towards 

The sensation was indescribable. There was a moment of 
hesitation in the auditory. The voice had been so thrilling, the 
man standing there appeared so calm, that at first nobody could 
comprehend it. They asked who had cried out. They could 
not believe that this tranquil man had uttered that fearful cry. 

This indecision lasted but few seconds. Before even the 
judge and prosecuting attorney could say a word, before the 
gendarmes and officers could make a sign, the man, whom all 
up to this moment called Monsieur Madeleine, had advanced 
towards the witnesses, Cochepaille, Brevet, and Chenildieu. 

" Do you not recognise me? " said he. 

All three stood confounded, and indicated by a shake of the 
head that they did not know him. Cochepaille, intimidated, 
gave the military salute. Monsieur Madeleine turned towards 
the jurors and court, and said in a mild voice: 

" Gentlemen of the jury, release the accused. Your honour, 
order my arrest. He is not the man whom you seek; it is I. 
I am Jean Valjean." 

Not a breath stirred. To the first commotion of astonish- 
ment had succeeded a sepulchral silence. That species of 
religious awe was felt in the ha.H which thrills the multitude at 
the accomplishment of a grand action. 

Nevertheless, the face of the judge was marked with sympathy 

268 Les Miserables 

and sadness; he exchanged glances with the prosecuting 
attorney, and a few whispered words with the assistant judges. 
He turned to the spectators and asked in a tone which was 
understood by all: 

" Is there a physician here? " 

The prosecuting attorney continued : 

" Gentlemen of the jury, the strange and unexpected incident 
which disturbs the audience, inspires us, as well as yourselves, 
with a feeling which we have no need to express. You all know, 
at least by reputation, the honourable Monsieur Madeleine, 

Mayor of M sur M . If there be a physician in the 

audience, we unite with his honour the judge in entreating 
him to be kind enough to lend his assistance to Monsieur Made- 
leine and conduct him to his residence." 

Monsieur Madeleine did not permit the prosecuting attorney 
to finish, but interrupted him with a tone full of gentleness and 
authority. These are the words he uttered; we give them 
literally, as they were written down immediately after the trial, 
by one of the witnesses of the scene as they still ring in the ears 
of those who heard them, now nearly forty years ago. 

" I thank you, Monsieur Prosecuting Attorney, but I am not 
mad. You shall see. You were on the point of committing a 
great mistake ; release that man. I am accomplishing a duty ; 
I am the unhappy convict. I am the only one who sees clearly 
here, and I tell you the truth. What I do at this moment, God 
beholds from on high, and that is sufficient. You can take me, 
since I am here. Nevertheless, I have done my best. I have 
disguised myself under another name, I have become rich, I 
have become a mayor, I have desired to enter again among 
honest men. It seems that this cannot be. In short, there are 
many things which I cannot tell. I shall not relate to you the 
story of my life: some day you will know it. I did rob Mon- 
seigneur the Bishop that is true; I did rob Petit Gervais that 
is true. They were right in telling you that Jean Valjean was a 
wicked wretch. But all the blame may not belong to him. 
Listen, your honours ; a man so abased as I, has no remonstrance 
to make with Providence, nor advice to give to society: but, 
mark you, the infamy from which I have sought to rise is per- 
nicious to men. The galleys make the galley-slave. Receive 
this in kindness, if you will. Before the galleys, I was a poor 
peasant, unintelligent, a species of idiot; the galleys changed 
me. I was stupid, I became wicked; I was a log, I became a 
firebrand. Later, I was saved by indulgence and kindness, as 

Fantine 269 

I had been lost by severity. But, pardon, you cannot compre- 
hend what I say. You will find in my house, among the ashes 
of the fireplace, the forty-sous piece of which, seven years ago, 
I robbed Petit Gervais. I have nothing more to add. Take me. 
Great God ! the prosecuting attorney shakes his head. You say 
' Monsieur Madeleine has gone mad ; ' you do not believe me. 
This is hard to be borne. Do not condemn that man, at least. 
What ! these men do not know me ! Would that Javert were 
here. He would recognise me ! " 

Nothing could express the kindly yet terrible melancholy of 
the tone which accompanied these words. 

He turned to the three convicts: 

" Well ! I recognise you, Brevet, do you remember " 

He paused, hesitated a moment, and said : 

" Do you remember those checkered, knit suspenders that 
you had in the galleys ? " 

Brevet started as if struck with surprise, and gazed wildly at 
him from head to foot. He continued : 

" Chenildieu, surnamed by yourself Je-nie-Dieu, the whole of 
your left shoulder has been burned deeply, from laying it one 
day on a chafing dish full of embers, to efface the three letters 
T. F. P., which yet are still to be seen there. Answer me, is 
this true?" 

" It is true ! " said Chenildieu. 

He turned to Cochepaille: 

" Cochepaille, you have on your left arm, near where you 
have been bled, a date put in blue letters with burnt powder. 
It is the date of the landing of the emperor at Cannes, March \st, 
1815. Lift up your sleeve." 

Cochepaille lifted up his sleeve; all eyes around him were 
turned to his naked arm. A gendarme brought a lamp; the 
date was there. 

The unhappy man turned towards the audience and the 
court with a smile, the thought of which still rends the hearts of 
those who witnessed it. It was the smile of triumph; it was 
also the smile of despair. 

" You see clearly," said he, " that I am Jean Valjean." 

There were no longer either judges, or accusers, or gendarmes 
in the hall; there were only fixed eyes and beating hearts. 
Nobody remembered longer the part which he had to play; the 
prosecuting attorney forgot that he was there to prosecute, the 
judge that he was there to preside, the counsel for the defence 
that he was there to defend. Strange to say no question was 

270 Les Miserables 

put, no authority intervened. It is the peculiarity of sublime 
spectacles that they take possession of every soul, a. id make of 
every witness a spectator. Nobody, perhaps, was positively 
conscious of what he experienced; and, undoubtedly, nobody 
said to himself that he there beheld the effulgence of a great 
light, yet all felt dazzled at heart. 

It was evident that Jean Valjean was before their eyes. That 
fact shone forth. The appearance of this man had been enough 
fully to clear up the case, so obscure a moment before. Without 
need of any further explanation, the multitude, as by a sort of 
electric revelation, comprehended instantly, and at a single 
glance, this simple and magnificent story of a man giving him- 
self up that another might not be condemned in his place. The 
details, the hesitation, the slight reluctance possible were lost 
in this immense, luminous fact. 

It was an impression which quickly passed over, but for the 
moment it was irresistible. 

" I will not disturb the proceeding further," continued Jean 
Valjean. " I am going, since I am not arrested. I have many 
things to do. Monsieur the prosecuting attorney knows where 
I am going, and will have me arrested when he chooses." 

He walked towards the outer door. Not a voice was raised, 
not an arm stretched out to prevent him. All stood aside. 
There was at this moment an indescribable divinity within him 
which makes the multitudes fall back and make way before a 
man. He passed through the throng with slow steps. It was 
never known who opened the door, but it is certain that the door 
was open when he came to it. On reaching it he turned and 

" Monsieur the Prosecuting Attorney, I remain at your 

He then addressed himself to the auditory. 

" You all, all who are here, think me worthy of pity, do you 
not ? Great God ! when I think of what I have been on the point 
of doing, I think myself worthy of envy. Still, would that all 
this had not happened ! " 

He went out, and the door closed as it had opened, for those 
who do deeds sovereignly great are always sure of being served 
by somebody in the multitude. 

Less than an hour afterwards, the verdict of the jury dis- 
charged from all accusation the said Champmathieu ; and 
Champmathieu, set at liberty forthwith, went his way stupefied, 
thinking all men mad, and understanding nothing of this vision. 



DAY began to dawn. Fantine had had a feverish and sleepless 
night, yet full of happy visions; she fell asleep at daybreak. 
Sister Simplice, who had watched with her, took advantage of 
this slumber to go and prepare a new potion of quinine. The 
good sister had been for a few moments in the laboratory of the 
infirmary, bending over her vials and drugs, looking at them 
very closely on account of the mist which the dawn casts over 
all objects, when suddenly she turned her head, and uttered a 
faint cry. M. Madeleine stood before her. He had just come 
in silently. 

" You, Monsieur the Mayor ! " she exclaimed. 

" How is the poor woman? " he answered in a low voice. 

" Better just now. But we have been very anxious indeed." 

She explained what had happened, that Fantine had been 
very ill the night before, but was now better, because she 
believed that the mayor had gone to Montfermeil for her child. 
The sister dared not question the mayor, but she saw clearly 
from his manner that he had not come from that place. 

" That is well," said he. " You did right not to deceive her." 

" Yes," returned the sister, " but now, Monsieur the Mayor, 
when she sees you without her child, what shall we tell her? " 

He reflected for a moment, then said : 

" God will inspire us." 

" But, we cannot tell her a lie," murmured the sister, in a 
smothered tone. 

The broad daylight streamed into the room, and lighted up 
the face of M. Madeleine. 

The sister happened to raise her eyes. 

" O God, monsieur," she exclaimed. " What has befallen 
you ? Your hair is all white ! " 

" White ! " said he. 

Sister Simplice had no mirror; she rummaged in a case of 
instruments, and found a little glass which the physician of the 


272 Les Miserables 

infirmary used to discover whether the breath had left the body 
of a patient. M. Madeleine took the glass, looked at his hair 
in it, and said, " Indeed ! " 

He spoke the word with indifference, as if thinking of some- 
thing else. 

The sister felt chilled by an unknown something, of which 
she caught a glimpse in all this. 

He asked: " Can I see her? " 

" Will not Monsieur the Mayor bring back her child? " asked 
the sister, scarcely daring to venture a question. 

" Certainly, but two or three days are necessary." 

" If she does not see Monsieur the Mayor here," continued 
the sister timidly, " she will not know that he has returned; it 
will be easy for her to have patience, and when the child comes, 
she will think naturally that Monsieur the Mayor has just 
arrived with her. Then we will not have to tell her a falsehood." 

Monsieur Madeleine seemed to reflect for a few moments, 
ihen said with his calm gravity: 

" No, my sister, I must see her. Perhaps I have not much 

The nun did not seem to notice this " perhaps," which gave 
an obscure and singular significance to the words of Monsieur 
the Mayor. She answered, lowering her eyes and voice respect- 

" In that case, she is asleep, but monsieur can go in." 

He made a few remarks about a door that shut with difficulty, 
the noise of which might awaken the sick woman; then entered 
the chamber of Fantine, approached her bed, and opened the 
curtains. She was sleeping. Her breath came from her chest 
with that tragic sound which is peculiar to these diseases, and 
which rends the heart of unhappy mothers, watching the 
slumbers of their fated children. But this laboured respiration 
scarcely disturbed an ineffable serenity, which overshadowed 
her countenance, and transfigured her in her sleep. Her pallor 
had become whiteness, and her cheeks were glowing. Her long, 
fair eyelashes, the only beauty left to her of her maidenhood 
and youth, quivered as they lay closed upon her cheek. Her 
whole person trembled as if with the fluttering of wings which 
were felt, but could not be seen, and which seemed about to 
unfold and bear her away. To see her thus, no one could have 
believed that her life was despaired of. She looked more as if 
about to soar away than to die. 

The stem, when the hand is stretched out to pluck the flower, 

Fantine 273 

quivers, and seems at once to shrink back, and present itself. 
The human body has something of this trepidation at the 
moment when the mysterious fingers of death are about to 
gather the soul. 

Monsieur Madeleine remained for some time motionless near 
the bed, looking by turns at the patient and the crucifix, as he 
had done two months before, on the day when he came for the 
first time to see her in this asylum. They were still there, both 
in the same attitude, she sleeping, he praying; only now, after 
these two months had rolled away, her hair was grey and his 
was white. 

The sister had not entered with him. He stood by the bed, 
with his finger on his lips, as if there were some one in the room 
to silence. She opened her eyes, saw him, and said tranquilly, 
with a smile: 




SHE did not start with surprise or joy ; she was joy itself. The 
simple question: " And Cosette? " was asked with such deep 
faith, with so much certainty, with so complete an absence of 
disquiet or doubt, that he could find no word in reply. She 
continued : 

" I knew that you were there; I was asleep, but I saw you. 
I have seen you for a long time ; I have followed you with my 
eyes the whole night. You were in a halo of glory, and all 
manner of celestial forms were hovering around you ! " 

He raised his eyes towards the crucifix. 

" But tell me, where is Cosette? " she resumed. " Why not 
put her on my bed that I might see her the instant I woke ? " 

He answered something mechanically, which he could never 
afterwards recall. 

Happily, the physician had come and had been apprised of 
this. He came to the aid of M. Madeleine. 

" My child," said he, " be calm, your daughter is here." 

The eyes of Fantine beamed with joy, and lighted up her 
whole countenance. She clasped her hands with an expression 
full of the most violent and most gentle entreaty : 

" Oh! " she exclaimed, " bring her to me! " 

Touching illusion of the mother; Cosette was still to her a 
little child to be carried in the arms. 

274 Les Miserables 

" Not yet," continued the physician, " not at this moment. 
You ha\ e some fever still. The sight of your child will agitate 
you, and make you worse. We must cure you first." 

She interrupted him impetuously. 

" But I am cured ! I tell you I am cured ! Is this physician 
a fool? I will see my child! " 

" You see how you are carried away ! " said the physician. 
" So long as you are in this state, I cannot let you have your 
child. It is not enough to see her, you must live for her. When 
you are reasonable, I will bring her to you myself." 

The poor mother bowed her head. 

" Sir, I ask your pardon. I sincerely ask your pardon. Once 
I would not have spoken as I have now, but so many misfor- 
tunes have befallen me that sometimes I do not know what I 
am saying. I understand, you fear excitement; I will wait as 
long as you wish, but I am sure that it will not harm me to see 
my daughter. I see her now, I have not taken my eyes from 
her since last night. Let them bring her to me now, and I will 
just speak to her very gently. That is all. Is it not very- 
natural that I should wish to see my child, when they have been 
to Montfermeil on purpose to bring her to me ? I am not angry. 
I know that I am going to be very happy. All night, I saw 
figures in white, smiling on me. As soon as the doctor pleases, 
he can bring Cosette. My fever is gone, for I am cured ; I feel 
that there is scarcely anything the matter with me; but I will 
act as if I were ill, and do not stir so as to please the ladies 
here. When they see that I am calm, they will say: ' You 
must give her the child.' " 

M. Madeleine was sitting in a chair by the side of the bed. 
She turned towards him, and made visible efforts to appear calm 
and " very good," as she said, in that weakness of disease which 
resembles childhood, so that, seeing her so peaceful, there should 
be no objection to bringing her Cosette. Nevertheless, although 
restraining herself, she could not help addressing a. thousand 
questions to M. Madeleine. 

" Did you have a pleasant journey, Monsieur the Mayor? 
Oh ! how good you have been to go for her ! Tell me only how 
she is! Did she bear the journey well? Ah! she will not 
know me. In all this time, she has forgotten me, poor kitten ! 
Children have no memory. They are like birds. To-day they 
see one thing, and to-morrow another, and remember nothing. 
Tell me only, were her clothes clean? Did those Thenardiers 
keep her neat? How did they feed her? Oh, if you knew how 

Fantine 275 

I have suffered in asking myself all these things in the time of 
my wretchedness ! Now, it is past. I am happy. Oh ! how I 
want to see her! Monsieur the Mayor, did you think her 
pretty? Is not my daughter beautiful ? You must have been 
very cold in the diligence? Could they not bring her here for 
one little moment? they might take her away immediately. 
Say! you are master here, are you willing? " 

He took her hand. " Cosette is beautiful/' said he. " Cosette 
is well; you shall see her soon, but be quiet. You talk too 
fast; and then you throw your arms out of bed, which makes 
you cough." 

In fact, coughing fits interrupted Fantine at almost every 

She did not murmur; she feared that by too eager entreaties 
she had weakened the confidence which she wished to inspire, 
and began to talk about indifferent subjects. 

" Montfermeil is a pretty place, is it not? In summer people 
go there on pleasure parties. Do the Thenardiers do a good 
business? Not many great people pass through that country. 
Their inn is a kind of chop-house." 

Monsieur Madeleine still held her hand and looked at her with 
anxiety. It was evident that he had come to tell her things 
before which his mind now hesitated. The physician had made 
his visit and retired. Sister Simplice alone remained with them. 

But in the midst of the silence, Fantine cried out: 

" I hear her ! Oh, darling ! I hear her ! " 

There was a child playing in the court the child of the 
portress or some workwoman. It was one of those chances 
which are always met with, and which seem to make part of 
the mysterious representation of tragic events. The child, 
which was a little girl, was running up and down to keep herself 
warm, singing and laughing in a loud voice. Alas! with what 
are not the plays of children mingled ! Fantine had heard this 
little girl singing. 

" Oh ! " said she, " it is my Cosette ! I know her voice ! " 

The child departed as she had come, and the voice died away. 
Fantine listened for some time. A shadow came over her face, 
and Monsieur Madeleine heard her whisper, " How wicked it 
is of that doctor not to let me see my child! That man has 
a bad face ! " 

But yet her happy train of thought returned. With her head 
on the pillow she continued to talk to herself. " How happy 
we shall be! We will have a little garden in the first place; 


Les Miserables 

Monsieur Madeleine has promised it to me. My child will play 
in the garden. She must know her letters now. I will teach 
her to spell. She will chase the butterflies in the grass, and I 
will watch her. Then there will be her first communion. Ah ! 
when will her first communion be ? " 

She began to count on her fingers. 

" One, two, three, four. She is seven years old. In five 
years. She will have a white veil and open- worked stockings, 
and will look like a little lady. Oh, my good sister, you do not 
know how foolish I am; here I am thinking of my child's first 
communion! " 

And she began to laugh. 

He had let go the hand of Fantine. He listened to the words 
as one listens to the wind that blows, his eyes on the ground, 
and his mind plunged into unfathomable reflections. Suddenly 
she ceased speaking, and raised her head mechanically. Fantine 
had become appalling. 

She did not speak; she did not breathe; she half -raised her- 
self in the bed, the covering fell from her emaciated shoulders: 
her countenance, radiant a moment before, became livid, and 
her eyes, dilated with terror, seemed to fasten on something 
before her at the other end of the room. 

" Good God ! " exclaimed he. " What is the matter, Fantine ? " 

She did not answer; she did not take her eyes from the object 
which she seemed to see, but touched his arm with one hand, 
and with the other made a sign to him to look behind him. 

He turned, and saw Javert. 



LET us see what had happened. 

The half hour after midnight was striking when M. Madeleine 
left the hall of the Arras Assizes. He had returned to his inn 
just in time to take the mail-coach, in which it will be remem- 
bered he had retained his seat. A little before six in the morning 

he had reached M sur M , where his first care had been 

to post his letter to M. Laffitte, then go to the infirmary and 
visit Fantine. 

Meanwhile he had scarcely left the hall of the Court of Assizes 
when the prosecuting attorney, recovering from his first shock, 

Fantine 277 

addressed the court, deploring the insanity of the honourable 

Mayor of M sur M , declaring that his convictions were 

in no wise modified by this singular incident, which would be 
explained hereafter, and demanding the conviction of this 
Champmathieu, who was evidently the real Jean Valjean. The 
persistence of the prosecuting attorney was visibly in contra- 
diction to the sentiment of all the public, the court, and the 
jury. The counsel for the defence had little difficulty in answer- 
ing this harangue, and establishing that, in consequence of the 
revelations of M. Madeleine that is, of the real Jean Valjean 
the aspect of the case was changed, entirely changed, from top 
to bottom, and that the jury now had before them an innocent 
man. The counsel drew from this a few passionate appeals, 
unfortunately not very new, in regard to judicial errors, etc., 
etc.; the judge, in his summing up, sided with the defence; and 
the jury, after a few moments' consultation, acquitted Champ- 

But yet the prosecuting attorney must have a Jean Valjean, 
and having lost Champmathieu he took Madeleine. 

Immediately upon the discharge of Champmathieu the prose- 
cuting attorney closeted himself with the judge. The subject 
of their conference was, " Of the necessity of the arrest of the 

person of Monsieur the Mayor of M sur M ." This 

sentence, in which there is a great deal of of, is the prosecuting 
attorney's, written by his own hand, on the minutes of his 
report to the Attorney-general. 

The first sensation being over, the judge made few objections. 
Justice must take its course. Then to confess the truth, 
although the judge was a kind man, and really intelligent, he 
was at the same time a strong, almost a zealous royalist, and 

had been shocked when the mayor of M sur M , in 

speaking of the debarkation at Cannes, said the Emperor, 
instead of Buonaparte. 

The order of arrest was therefore granted. The prosecuting" 

attorney sent it to M sur M by a courier, at full speed, 

to police inspector Javert. 

It will be remembered that Javert had returned to M sur 

M immediately after giving his testimony. 

Javert was just rising when the courier brought him the 
warrant and order of arrest. 

The courier was himself a policeman, and an intelligent man ; 
who, in three words, acquainted Javert with what had happened 
at Arras. 

Les Miserables 

The order of arrest, signed by the prosecuting attorney, was 
couched in these terms : 

" Inspector Javert will seize the body of Sieur Madeleine, 

Mayor of M sur M , who has this day been identified in 

court as the discharged convict Jean Valjean." 

One who did not know Javert, on seeing him as he entered 
the hall of the infirmary, could have divined nothing of what 
was going on, and would have thought his manner the most 
natural imaginable. He was cool, calm, grave; his grey hair 
lay perfectly smooth over his temples, and he had ascended the 
stairway with his customary deliberation. But one who knew 
him thoroughly and examined him with attention, would have 
shuddered. The buckle of his leather cravat, instead of being 
on the back of his neck, was under his left ear. This denoted 
an unheard-of agitation. 

Javert was a complete character, without a wrinkle in his 
duty or his uniform, methodical with villains, rigid with the 
buttons of his coat. 

For him to misplace the buckle of his cravat, he must have 
received one of those shocks which may well be the earthquakes 
of the soul. 

He came unostentatiously, had taken a corporal and four 
soldiers from a station-house near-by, had left the soldiers in 
the court, and had been shown to Fantine's chamber by the 
portress, without suspicion, accustomed as she was to see armed 
men asking for the mayor. 

On reaching the room of Fantine, Javert turned the key, 
pushed open the door with the gentleness of a sick-nurse, or a 
police spy, and entered. 

Properly speaking, he did not enter. He remained standing 
in the half-opened door, his hat on his head, and his left hand 
in his overcoat, which was buttoned to the chin. In the bend 
of his elbow might be seen the leaden head of his enormous cane, 
which disappeared behind him. 

He remained thus for nearly a minute, unperceived. Suddenly, 
Fantine raised her eyes, saw him, and caused Monsieur Madeleine 
to turn round. 

At the moment when the glance of Madeleine encountered 
that of Javert, Javert, without stirring, without moving, 
without approaching, became terrible. No human feeling can 
ever be so appalling as joy. 

It was the face of a demon who had again found his victim. 

The certainty that he had caught Jean Valjean at last brought 

Fantine 279 

forth upon his countenance all that was in his soul. The 
disturbed depths rose to the surface. The humiliation of having 
lost the scent for a little while, of having been mistaken for a 
few moments concerning Champmathieu, was lost in the pride 
of having divined so well at first, and having so long retained 
a true instinct. The satisfaction of Javert shone forth in his 
commanding attitude. The deformity of triumph spread over 
his narrow forehead. It was the fullest development of horror 
that a gratified face can show. 

Javert was at this moment in heaven. Without clearly 
defining his own feelings, yet notwithstanding with a confused 
intuition of his necessity and his success, he, Javert, personified 
justice, light, and truth, in their celestial function as destroyers 
of evil. He was surrounded and supported by infinite depths 
of authority, reason, precedent, legal conscience, the vengeance 
of the law, all the stars in the firmament; he protected order, 
he hurled forth the thunder of the law, he avenged society, he 
lent aid to the absolute ; he stood erect in a halo of glory ; there 
was in his victory a reminder of defiance and of combat; stand- 
ing haughty, resplendent, he displayed in full glory the super- 
human beastliness of a ferocious archangel ; the fearful shadow 
of the deed which he was accomplishing, made visible in his 
clenched fist, the uncertain flashes of the social sword; happy 
and indignant, he had set his heel on crime, vice, rebellion, 
perdition, and hell, he was radiant, exterminating, smiling; 
there was an incontestable grandeur in this monstrous St. 

Javert, though hideous, was not ignoble. 

Probity, sincerity, candour, conviction, the idea of duty, are 
things which, mistaken, may become hideous, but which, even 
though hideous, remain great; their majesty, peculiar to the 
human conscience, continues in all their horror; they are 
virtues with a single vice error. The pitiless, sincere joy of a 
fanatic in an act of atrocity preserves an indescribably mournful 
radiance which inspires us with" veneration. Without suspect- 
ing it, Javert, in his fear-inspiring happiness, was pitiable, like 
every ignorant man who wins a triumph. Nothing could be 
more painful and terrible than this face, which revealed what 
we may call all the evil of good. 

280 Les Miserables 



FANTINE had not seen Javert since the day the mayor had 
wrested her from him. Her sick brain accounted for nothing, 
only she was sure that he had come for her. She could not 
endure this hideous face, she felt as if she were dying, she hid 
her face with both hands, and shrieked in anguish: 

" Monsieur Madeleine, save me ! " 

Jean Valjean, we shall call him by no other name henceforth, 
had risen. He said to Fantine in his gentlest and calmest tone : 

" Be composed; it is not for you that he comes." 

He then turned to Javert and said : 

" I know what you want." 

Javert answered : 

" Hurry along." 

There was in the manner in which these two words were 
uttered, an inexpressible something which reminded you of a 
wild beast and of a madman. Javert did not say " Hurry 
along! " he said: " Hurr-'long ! " No orthography can express 
the tone in which this was pronounced; it ceased to be human 
speech; it was a howl. 

He did not go through the usual ceremony ; he made no words ; 
he showed no warrant. To him Jean Valjean was a sort of 
mysterious and intangible antagonist, a shadowy wrestler with 
whom he had been struggling for five years, without being able 
to throw him. This arrest was not a beginning, but an end. 
He only said: " Hurry along !" 

\Vhile speaking thus, he did not stir a step, but cast upon 
Jean Valjean a look like a noose, with which he was accustomed 
to draw the wretched to him by force. 

It was the same look which Fantine had felt penetrate to the 
very marrow of her bones, two months before. 

At the exclamation of Javert, Fantine had opened her eyes 
again. But the mayor was there, what could she fear? 

Javert advanced to the middle of the chamber, exclaiming: 

" Hey, there ; are you coming ? " 

The unhappy woman looked around her. There was no one 
but the nun and the mayor. To whom could this contemptuous 
familiarity be addressed? To herself alone. She shuddered. 

Then she saw a mysterious thing, so mysterious that its like 
had never appeared to her in the darkest delirium of fever. 

Fantine 281 

She saw the spy Javert seize Monsieur the Mayor by the 
collar; she saw Monsieur the Mayor bow his head. The world 
seemed vanishing before her sight. 

Javert, in fact, had taken Jean Valjean by the collar. 

" Monsieur the Mayor ! " cried Fantine. 

Javert burst into a horrid laugh, displaying all his teeth. 

"There is no Monsieur the Mayor here any longer!" 
said he. 

Jean Valjean did not attempt to disturb the hand which 
grasped the collar of his coat. He said : 

" Javert" 

Javert interrupted him : " Call me Monsieur the Inspector ! " 

" Monsieur," continued Jean Valjean, " I would like to speak 
a word with you in private." 

" Aloud, speak aloud," said Javert, " people speak aloud 
to me." 

Jean Valjean went on, lov/ering his voice. 

" It is a request that I have to make of you " 

" I tell you to speak aloud." 

" But this should not be heard by any one but yourself." 

" What is that to me? I will not listen." 

Jean Valjean turned to him and said rapidly and in a very 
low tone: 

" Give me three days ! Three days to go for the child of this 
unhappy woman ! I will pay whatever is necessary. You shall 
accompany me if you like." 

" Are you laughing at me ! " cried Javert. " Hey ! I did not 
think you so stupid ! You ask for three days to get away, and 
tell me that you are going for this girl's child ! Ha, ha, that's 
good ! That is good ! " 

Fantine shivered. 

" My child ! " she exclaimed, " going for my child ! Then she 
is not here! Sister, tell me, where is Cosette? I want my 
child ! Monsieur Madeleine, Monsieur the Mayor ! " 

Javert stamped his foot. 

" There is the other now ! Hold your tongue, hussy ! 
Miserable country, where galley slaves are magistrates and 
women of the town are nursed like countesses! Ha, but all 
this will be changed; it was time! " 

He gazed steadily at Fantine, and added, grasping anew the 
cravat, shirt, and coat collar of Jean Valjean: 

" I tell you that there is no Monsieur Madeleine, and that 
there is no Monsieur the Mayor. There is a robber, there is a 

282 Les Miserables 

brigand, there is a convict called Jean Valjean, and I have got 
him ! That is what there is! " 

Fantine started upright, supporting herself by her rigid arms 
and hands; she looked at Jean Valjean, then at Javert, and 
then at the nun; she opened her mouth as if to speak; a rattle 
came from her throat, her teeth struck together, she stretched 
out her arms in anguish, convulsively opening her hands, and 
groping about her like one who is drowning; then sank suddenly 
back upon the pillow. 

Her head struck the head of the bed and fell forward on her 
breast, the mouth gaping, the eyes open and glazed. 

She was dead. 

Jean Valjean put his hand on that of Javert which held him, 
and opened it as he would have opened the hand of a child; 
then he said: 

" You have killed this woman." 

" Have done with this ! " cried Javert, furious, " I am not 
here to listen to sermons; save all that; the guard is below; 
come right along, or the handcuffs ! " 

There stood in a corner of the room an old iron bedstead in 
a dilapidated condition, which the sisters used as a camp-bed 
when they watched. Jean Valjean went to the bed, wrenched 
out the rickety head bar a thing easy for muscles like his in 
the twinkling of an eye, and with the bar in his clenched fist, 
looked at Javert. Javert recoiled towards the door. 

Jean Valjean, his iron bar in hand, walked slowly towards 
the bed of Fantine. On reaching it, he turned and said to 
Javert in a voice that could scarcely be heard: 

" I advise you not to disturb me now." 

Nothing is more certain than that Javert trembled. 

He had an idea of calling the guard, but Jean Valjean might 
profit by his absence to escape. He remained therefore, grasped 
the bottom of his cane, and leaned against the framework of 
the door without taking his eyes from Jean Valjean. 

Jean Valjean rested his elbow upon the post, and his head 
upon his hand, and gazed at Fantine. stretched motionless 
before him. He remained thus, mute and absorbed, evidently 
lost to everything of this life. His countenance and attitude 
bespoke nothing but inexpressible pity. 

After a few moments' reverie, he bent down to Fantine, and 
addressed her in a whisper. 

What did he say? What could this condemned man say to 
this dead woman ? What were these words ? They were heard 

Fantine 283 

by none on earth. Did the dead woman hear them? There 
are touching illusions which perhaps are sublime realities. One 
thing is beyond doubt; Sister Simplice, the only witness of what 
passed, has often related that, at the moment when Jean Val- 
jean whispered in the ear of Fantine, she distinctly saw an 
ineffable smile beam on those pale lips and in those dim eyes, 
full of the wonder of the tomb. 

Jean Valjean took Fantine's head in his hands and arranged 
it on the pillow, as a mother would have done for her child, 
then fastened the string of her night-dress, and replaced her 
hair beneath her cap. This done, he closed her eyes. 

The face of Fantine, at this instant, seemed strangely illumined. 

Death is the entrance into the great light. 

Fantine's hand hung over the side of the bed. Jean Valjean 
knelt before this hand, raised it gently, and kissed it. 

Then he rose, and, turning to Javert, said: 

" Now, I am at your disposal." 



J AVERT put Jean Valjean in the city prison. 
The arrest of Monsieur Madeleine produced a sensation, of 

rather an extraordinary commotion, at M sur M . We 

are sorry not to be able to disguise the fact that, on this single 
sentence, he was a galley slave, almost everybody abandoned 
him. In less than two hours, all the good he had done was 
forgotten, and he was " nothing but a galley slave." It is just 
to say that the details of the scene at Arras were not yet known. 
All day long, conversations like this were heard in every part 
of the town: " Don't you know, he was a discharged convict! " 
"He! Who?" "The mayor." " Bah! Monsieur Madeleine." 
"Yes." "Indeed!" " His name was not Madeleine; he has 
a horrid name, Be" jean, Bojean, Bonjean! " " Oh! bless me! " 
" He has been arrested." " Arrested ! " " In prison, in the 
city prison to await his removal." " His removal! where will 
he be taken? " " To the Court of Assizes for a highway robbery 
that he once committed." " Well! I always did suspect him. 
The man was too good, too perfect, too sweet. He refused fees, 
and gave sous to every little blackguard he met. I always 
thought that there must be something bad at the bottom of 
all this." 


Les Miserables 

" The drawing-rooms/' above all, were entirely of this opinion. 

An old lady, a subscriber to the Drapeau Blanc, made this 
remark, the depth of which it is almost impossible to fathom: 

" I am not sorry for it. That will teach the Bonapartists ! " 

In this manner the phantom which had been called Monsieur 

Madeleine was dissipated at M sur M . Three or four 

persons alone in the whole city remained faithful to his memory. 
The old portress who had been his servant was among the 

On the evening of this same day, the worthy old woman was 
sitting in her lodge, still quite bewildered and sunk in sad 
reflections. The factory had been closed all day, the carriage 
doors were bolted, the street was deserted. There was no one 
in the house but the two nuns, Sister Perpetue and Sister 
Simplice, who were watching the corpse of Fantine. 

Towards the time when Monsieur Madeleine had been 
accustomed to return, the honest portress rose mechanically, 
took the key of his room from a drawer, with the taper-stand 
that he used at night to light himself up the stairs, then hung 
the key on a nail from which he had been in the habit of taking 
it, and placed the taper-stand by its side, as if she were expecting 
him. She then seated herself again in her chair, and resumed 
her reflections. The poor old woman had done all this without 
being conscious of it. 

More than two hours had elapsed when she started from her 
reverie and exclaimed, " Why, bless me! I have hung his key 
on the nail ! " 

Just then, the window of her box opened, a hand passed 
through the opening, took the key and stand, and lighted the 
taper at the candle which was burning. 

The portress raised her eyes ; she was transfixed with astonish- 
ment; a cry rose to her lips, but she could not give it utterance. 

She knew the hand, the arm, the coat-sleeve. 

It was M. Madeleine. 

She was speechless for some seconds, thunderstruck, as she 
said herself, afterwards, in giving her account of the affair. 

"My God! Monsieur Mayor!" she exclaimed, "I thought 
you were " 

She stopped; the end of her sentence would not have been 
respectful to the beginning. To her, Jean Valjean was still 
Monsieur the Mayor. 

He completed her thought. 

" In prison," said he. " I was there; I broke a bar from a 

Fantinc 285 

window, let myself fall from the top of a roof, and here I am. 
I am going to my room ; go for Sister Simplice. She is doubtless 
beside this poor woman." 

The old servant hastily obeyed. 

He gave her no caution,, very sure she would guard him better 
than he would guard himself. 

It has never been known how he had succeeded in gaining 
entrance into the court-yard without opening the carriage-door. 
He had, and always carried about him, a pass-key which opened 
a little side door, but he must have been searched, and this 
taken from him. This point is not yet cleared up. 

He ascended the staircase which led to his room. On reach- 
ing the top, he left his taper stand on the upper stair, opened 
his door with little noise, felt his way to the window and closed 
the shutter, then came back, took his taper, arid went into 
the chamber. 

The precaution was not useless; it will be remembered that 
his window could be seen from the street. 

He cast a glance about him, over his table, his chair, his bed, 
which had not been slept in for three days. There remained no 
trace of the disorder of the night before the last. The portress 
had " put the room to rights." Only, she had picked up from 
the ashes, and laid in order on the table, the ends of the loaded 
club, and the forty-sous piece, blackened by the fire. 

He took a sheet of paper and wrote: These are the ends of 
my loaded dub and the forty-sous piece stolen from Petit Gervais, 
of which I spoke at the Court of Assizes ; then placed the two 
bits of iron and the piece of silver on the sheet in such a way 
that it would be the first thing perceived on entering the room. 
He took from a wardrobe an old shirt which he tore into several 
pieces and in which he packed the two silver candlesticks. In 
all this there was neither haste nor agitation. And even while 
packing the bishop's candlesticks, he was eating a piece of black 
bread. It was probably prison-bread, which he had brought 
away in escaping. 

This has been established by crumbs of bread found on the 
floor of the room, when the court afterwards ordered a search. 

Two gentle taps were heard at the door. 

" Come in," said he. 

It was Sister Simplice. 

She was pale, her eyes were red, and the candle which she 
held trembled in her hand. The shocks of destiny have this 
peculiarity; however subdued or disciplined our feelings may 

286 Les Miserables 

be, they draw out the human nature from the depths of our 
souls, and compel us to exhibit it to others. In the agitation 
of this day the nun had again become a woman. She had wept, 
and she was trembling. 

Jean Valjean had written a few lines on a piece of paper, 
which he handed to the nun, saying: " Sister, you will give 
this to the cure." 

The paper was not folded. She cast her eyes on it. 

" You may read it," said he. 

She read: " I be'g Monsieur the Cure to take charge of all 
that I leave here. He will please defray therefrom the expenses 
of my trial, and of the burial of the woman who died this 
morning. The remainder is for the poor." 

The sister attempted to speak, but could scarcely stammer 
out a few inarticulate sounds. She succeeded, however, in 
saying : 

" Does not Monsieur the Mayor wish to see this poor unfor- 
tunate again for the last time? " 

" No," said he, " I am pursued; I should only be arrested in 
her chamber; it would disturb her." 

He had scarcely finished when there was a loud noise on the 
staircase. They heard a tumult of steps ascending, and the old 
portress exclaiming in her loudest and most piercing tones : 

" My good sir, I swear to you in the name of God, that nobody 
has come in here the whole day, and the whole evening; that 
I have not even once left my door ! " 

A man replied: " But yet, there is a light in this room." 

They recognised the voice of Javert. 

The chamber was so arranged that the door in opening covered 
the corner of the wall to the right. Jean Valjean blew out the 
taper, and placed himself in this corner. 

Sister Simplice fell on her knees near the table. 

The door opened. 

Javert entered. 

The whispering of several men, and the protestations of the 
portress were heard in the hall. 

The nun did not raise her eyes. She was praying. 

The candle was on the mantel, and gave but a dim light. 

Javert perceived the sister, and stopped abashed. 

It will be remembered that the very foundation of Javert, 
his element, the medium in which he breathed, was veneration 
for all authority. He was perfectly homogeneous, and admitted 
of no objection, or abridgment. To him, be it understood, 

Fantinc 287 

ecclesiastical authority was the highest of all; he was devout, 
superficial, and correct, upon this point as upon all others. In 
his eyes, a priest was a spirit who was never mistaken, a nun 
was a being who never sinned. They were souls walled in from 
this world, with a single door which never opened but for the 
exit of truth. 

On perceiving the sister, his first impulse was to retire. 

But there was also another duty which held him, and which 
urged him imperiously in the opposite direction. His second 
impulse was to remain, and to venture at least one question. 

This was the Sister Simplice, who had never lied in her life. 
Javert knew this, and venerated her especially on account of it. 

" Sister," said he, " are you alone in this room? " 

There was a fearful instant during which the poor portress 
felt her limbs falter beneath her. The sister raised her eyes, 
and replied: 

" Yes." 

Then continued Javert " Excuse me if I persist, it is my 
duty you have not seen this evening a person, a man he has; 
escaped, and we are in search of him Jean Valjean you have- 
not seen him? " 

The sister answered " No." 

She lied. Two lies in succession, one upon another, without 
hesitation, quickly, as if she were an adept in it. 

" Your pardon ! " said Javert, and he withdrew, bowing: 

Oh, holy maiden ! for many years thou hast been no more in 
this world; thou hast joined the sisters, the virgins, and thy 
brethren, the angels, in glory; may this falsehood be remem- 
bered to thee in Paradise. 

The affirmation of the sister was to Javert something so 
decisive that he did not even notice the singularity of this taper, 
just blown out, and smoking on the table. 

An hour afterwards, a man was walking rapidly in the dark- 
ness beneath the trees from M sur M in the direction 

of Paris. This man was Jean Valjean. It has been established, 
by the testimony of two or three waggoners who met him, that 
he carried a bundle, and was dressed in a blouse. Where did 
he get this blouse? It was never known.. Nevertheless, an 
old artisan had died in the infirmary of the factory a few days 
before, leaving nothing but his blouse. This might have been- 
the one. 

A last word in regard to Fantine. 

?, 88 Les Miser ables 

We have all one mother the earth. Fantine was restored 
to this mother. 

The cure thought best, and did well perhaps, to reserve out 
of what Jean Valjean had left, the largest amount possible for 
the poor. After all, who were in question? a convict and a 
woman of the town. This was why he simplified the burial of 
Fantine, and reduced it to that bare necessity called the Potter's 

And so Fantine was buried in the common grave of the 
cemetery, which is for everybody and for all, and in which the 
poor are lost. Happily, God knows where to find the soul. 
Fantine was laid away in the darkness with bodies which had 
no name; she suffered the promiscuity of dust. She was 
thrown into the public pit. Her tomb was like her bed. 






ON a beautiful morning in May, last year (1861), a traveller, he 
who tells this story, was journeying from Nivelles towards La 
Hulpe. He travelled a-foot. He was following, between two 
rows of trees, a broad road, undulating over hills, which, one 
after another, upheave it and let it fall again, like enormous 
waves. He had passed Lillois vand Bois-Seigneur-Isaac. He 
saw to the west the slated steeple of Braine-l'Alleud, which has 
the form of an inverted vase. He had just passed a wood upon 
a hill, and at the corner of a cross-road, beside a sort of worm- 
eaten sign-post, bearing the inscription Old Toll-Gate, No. 4 
a tavern with this sign: The Four Winds. Echaleau, Private 

Half a mile from this tavern, he reached the bottom of a 
little valley, where a stream flowed beneath an arch in the 
embankment of the road. The cluster of trees, thin-sown but 
very green, which fills the vale on one side of the road, on the 
other spreads out into meadows, and sweeps away in graceful 
disorder towards Braine 1'Alleud. 

At this point there was at the right, and immediately on the 
road, an inn, with a four wheeled cart before the door, a great 
bundle of hop-poles, a plough, a pile of dry brush near a quick- 
set hedge, some lime which was smoking in a square hole in the 
ground, and a ladder lying along an old shed with mangers for 
straw. A young girl was pulling weeds in a field, where a large 
green poster, probably of a travelling show at some annual fair, 
fluttered in the wind. At the corner of the inn, beside a pond, 
in which a flotilla of ducks was navigating, a difficult foot-path 
lost itself in the shrubbery. The traveller took this path. 

At the end of a hundred paces, passing a wall of the fifteenth 

292 Les Miserables 

century, surmounted by a sharp gable of crossed bricks, he found 
himself opposite a great arched stone doorway, with rectilinear 
impost, in the solemn style of Louis XIV., and plain medallions 
on the sides. Over the entrance was a severe facade, and a 
wall perpendicular to the facade almost touched the doorway, 
flanking it at an abrupt right angle. On the meadow before 
the door lay three harrows, through which were blooming, as 
best they could, all the flowers of May. The doorway was 
closed. It was shut by two decrepit folding-doors, decorated 
with an old rusty knocker. 

The sunshine was enchanting; the branches of the trees had 
that gentle tremulousness of the month of May which seems to 
come from the birds' nests rather than the wind. A spruce 
little bird, probably in love, was singing desperately in a tall 

The traveller paused and examined in the stone at the left of 
the door, near the ground, a large circular excavation like the 
hollow of a sphere. Just then the folding-doors opened, and a 
peasant woman came out. 

She saw the traveller, and perceived what he was examining. 

" It was a French ball which did that/' said she. 

And she added 

" What you see there, higher up, in the door, near a nail, is 
the hole made by a Biscay musket. The musket has not gone 
through the wood." 

" What is the name of this place? " asked the traveller. 

" Hougomont," the woman answered. 

The traveller raised his head. He took a few steps and 
looked over the hedges. He saw in the horizon, through the 
trees, a sort of hillock, and on this hillock something which, in 
the distance, resembled a lion. 

He was on the battle-field of Waterloo. 



HOUGOMONT this was the fatal spot, the beginning of the 
resistance, the first check encountered at Waterloo by this 
great butcher of Europe, called Napoleon; the first knot under 
the axe. 

It was a chateau; it is now nothing more than a farm. 
Hougomont, to the antiquary, is Hugomons. This manor was 

Cosette 293 

built by Hugo, sire de Somerel, the same who endowed the sixth 
chaplainship of the abbey of Villiers. 

The traveller pushed open the door, elbowed an old carriage 
under the porch, and entered the court. 

The first thing that he noticed in this yard was a door of the 
sixteenth century, which seemed like an arch, everything having 
fallen down around it. The monumental aspect is often pro- 
duced by ruin. Near the arch opens another door in the wall, 
with keystones of the time of Henry IV., which discloses the 
trees of an orchard. Beside this door were a dung-hill, mattocks 
and shovels, some carts, an old well with its flag-stone and iron 
pulley, a skipping colt, a strutting turkey, a chapel surmounted 
by a little steeple, a pear-tree in bloom, trained in espalier on 
the wall of the chapel ; this was the court, the conquest of which 
was the aspiration of Napoleon. This bit of earth, could he 
have taken it, would perhaps have given him the world. The 
hens are scattering the dust with their beaks. You hear a 
growling : it is a great dog, who shows his teeth, and takes the 
place of the English. 

The English fought admirably there. The four companies of 
guards under Cooke held their ground for seven hours, against 
the fury of an assaulting army. 

Hougomont, seen on the map, on a geometrical plan, com- 
prising buildings and in closure, presents a sort of irregular 
rectangle, one corner of which is cut off. At this corner is the 
southern entrance, guarded by this wall, which commands it at 
the shortest musket range. Hougomont has two entrances: 
the southern, that of the chateau, and the northern, that of the 
farm. Napoleon sent against Hougomont his brother Jerome. 
The divisions of Guilleminot, Foy, and Bachelu were hurled 
against it; nearly the whole corps of Reille was there employed 
and there defeated, and the bullets of Kellermann were ex- 
hausted against this heroic wall-front. It was too much for the 
brigade of Bauduin to force Hougomont on the north, and the 
brigade of Soye could only batter it on the south it could not 
take it. 

The buildings of the farm ate on the southern side of the 
court. A small portion of the northern door, broken by the 
French, hangs dangling from the wall. It is composed of four 
planks, nailed to two cross-pieces, and in it may be seen the 
scars of the attack. 

The northern door, forced by the French, and to which a 
piece has been added to replace the panel suspended from the 

294 Les Miserables 

wall, stands half open at the foot of the court-yard; it is cut 
squarely in a wall of stone below, and brick above, and closes 
the court on the north. It is a simple cart-door, such as are 
found on all small farms, composed of two large folding-doors, 
made of rustic planks; beyond this are the meadows. This 
entrance was furiously contested. For a long time there could 
be seen upon the door all sorts of prints of bloody hands. It 
was there that Bauduin was killed. 

The storm of the combat is still in this court: the horror is 
visible there; the overturn of the conflict is there petrified; it 
lives, it dies; it was but yesterday. The walls are still in death 
agonies; the stones fall, the breaches cry out; the holes are 
wounds; the trees bend and shudder, as if making an effort to 

This cour;, in 1815, was in better condition than it is to-day. 
Structures which have since been pulled down formed redans, 
angles, and squares. 

The English were barricaded there; the French effected an 
entrance, but could not maintain their position. At the side of 
the chapel, one wing of the chateau, the only remnant which 
exists of the manor of Hougomont, stands crumbling, one might 
almost say disembowelled. The chateau served as donjon; the 
chapel served as block-house. There was work of extermina- 
tion. The French, shot down from all sides, from behind the 
walls, from the roofs of the barns, from the bottom of the 
cellars, through every window, through every air-hole, through 
every chink in the stones, brought fagots and fired the walls and 
the men : the storm of balls was answered by a tempest of flame. 

A glimpse may be had in the ruined wing, through the iron- 
barred windows, of the dismantled chambers of a main building; 
the English guards lay in ambush in these chambers; the spiral 
staircase, broken from foundation to roof, appears like the 
interior of a broken shell. The staircase has two landings ; the 
English, besieged in the staircase, and crowded upon the upper 
steps, had cut away the lower ones. These are large slabs of 
blue stone, now heaped together among the nettles. A dozen 
steps still cling to the wall; on the first is cut the image of a 
trident. These inaccessible steps are firm in their sockets; all 
the rest resembles a toothless jaw-bone. Two old trees are 
there; one is dead, the other is wounded at the root, and does 
not leaf out until April. Since 1850 it has begun to grow across 
the staircase. 

There was a massacre in the chapel. The interior, again 

Cosette 295 

restored to quiet, is strange. No mass has been said there since 
the carnage. The altar remains, however a clumsy wooden 
altar, backed by a wall of rough stone. Four whitewashed 
walls, a door opposite the altar, two little arched windows, over 
the door a large wooden crucifix, above the crucifix a square 
opening in which is stuffed a bundle of straw; in a corner on 
the ground, an old glazed sash all broken, such is this chapel. 
Near the altar hangs a wooden statue of St. Anne of the fifteenth 
century ; the head of the infant Jesus has been carried away by 
a musket-shot. The French, masters for a moment of the 
chapel, then dislodged, fired it. The flames filled this ruin; it 
was a furnace; the door was burned, the floor was burned, but 
the wooden Christ was not burned. The fire ate its way to his 
feet, the blackened stumps of which only are visible; then it 
stopped. A miracle, say the country people. The infant 
Jesus, decapitated, was not so fortunate as the Christ. 

The walls are covered with inscriptions. Near the feet of 
the Christ we read this name: Henquinez. Then these others: 
Conde de Rio Maior Marque'; y Marquesa de Almagre (Habana). 
There are French names with exclamation points, signs of anger. 
The wall was whitewashed in 1849. The nations were insulting 
each other on it. 

At the door of this chapel a body was picked up holding an 
axe in its hand. This body was that of second-lieutenant Legros. 

On coming out of the chapel, a well is seen at the left. There 
are two in this yard. You ask: why is there no bucket and no 
pulley to this one? Because no water is drawn from it now. 
Why is no more water drawn from it? Because it is full of 

The last man who drew water from that well was Guillaume 
Van Kylsom. He was a peasant, who lived in Hougomont, and 
was gardener there. On the i8th of June, 1815, his family fled 
and hid in the woods. 

The forest about the Abbey of Villiers concealed for several 
days and several nights all that scattered and distressed popu- 
lation. Even now certain vestiges may be distinguished, such 
as old trunks of scorched trees, which mark the place of these 
poor trembling bivouacs in the depths of the thickets. 

Guillaume Van Kylsom remained at Hougomont " to take 
care of the chateau," and hid in the cellar. The English dis- 
covered him there. He was torn from his hiding place, and, 
with blows of the flat of their swords, the soldiers compelled this 
frightened man to wait upon them. They were thirsty; this 


Les Miserables 

Guillaume brought them drink. It was from this well that he 
drew the water. Many drank their last quaff. This well, 
where drank so many of the dead, must die itself also. 

After the action, there was haste to bury the corpses. Death 
has its own way of embittering victory, and it causes glory to 
be followed by pestilence. Typhus is the successor of triumph. 
This well was deep, it was made a sepulchre. Three hundred 
dead were thrown into it. Perhaps with too much haste. Were 
they all dead? Tradition says no. It appears that on the 
night after the burial, feeble voices were heard calling out 
from the well. 

This well is isolated in the middle of the court-yard. Three 
walls, half brick and half stone, folded back like the leaves of a 
screen, and imitating a square turret, surround it on three sides. 
The fourth side is open. On that side the water was drawn. 
The back wall has a sort of shapeless bull's-eye, perhaps a hole 
made by a shell. This turret had a roof, of which only the 
beams remain. The iron that sustains the wall on the right is 
in the shape of a cross. You bend over the well, the eye is 
lost in a deep brick cylinder, which is filled with an accumulation 
of shadows. All around it, the bottom of the walls is covered 
by nettles. 

This well has not in front the large blue flagging stone, which 
serves as curb for all the wells of Belgium. The blue stone is 
replaced by a cross-bar on which rest five or six misshapen 
wooden stumps, knotty and hardened, that resemble huge 
bones. There is no longer either bucket, or chain, or pulley; 
but the stone basin is still there which served for the waste 
water. The rain water gathers there, and from time to time 
a bird from the neighbouring forest comes to drink and flies 

One house among these ruins, the farm-house, is still inhabited. 
The door of this house opens upon the court-yard. By the side 
of a pretty Gothic key-hole plate there is upon the door a hand- 
ful of iron in trefoil, slanting forward. At the moment that 
the Hanoverian lieutenant Wilda was seizing this to take refuge 
in the farm-house, a French sapper struck off his hand with 
the blow of an axe. 

The family which occupies the house calls the former gardener 
Van Kylsom, long since dead, its grandfather. A grey-haired 
woman said to us: "I was there. I was there years old. My 
sister, larger, was afraid, and cried. They carried us away into 
the woods ; I was in my mother's arms. They laid their ears 

Cosette 297 

to the ground to listen. For my part, I mimicked the cannon, 
and I went boom, boom." 

One of the yard doors, on the left, we have said, opens into 
the orchard. 

The orchard is terrible. 

It is in three parts, one might almost say in three acts. The 
first part is a garden, the second is the orchard, the third is a 
wood. These three parts have a common inclosure; on the 
side of the entrance the buildings of the chateau and the farm, 
on the left a hedge, on the right a wall, at the back a wall. 
The wall on the right is of brick, the wall on the back is of 
stone. The garden is entered first. It is sloping, planted with 
currant bushes, covered with wild vegetation, and terminated 
by a terrace of cut stone, with balusters with a double swell. 
It is a seignorial garden, in this first French style, which pre- 
ceded the modern; now ruins and briers. The pilasters are 
surmounted by globes which look like stone cannon-balls. We 
count forty- three balusters still in their places; the others are 
lying in the grass, nearly all show some scratches of musketry. 
A broken baluster remains upright like a broken leg. 

It is in this garden, which is lower than the orchard, that six 
of the first Light Voltigeurs, having penetrated thither, and 
being unable to escape, caught and trapped like bears in a pit, 
engaged in a battle with two Hanoverian companies, one of 
which was armed with carbines. The Hanoverians were ranged 
along these balusters, and fired from above. These voltigeurs, 
answering from below, six against two hundred, intrepid, with 
the currant bushes only for a shelter, took a quarter of an 
hour to die. 

You rise a few steps, and from the garden pass into the 
orchard proper. There, in these few square yards, fifteen hun- 
dred men fell in less than an hour. The wall seems ready to 
recommence the combat. The thirty-eight loopholes, pierced 
by the English at irregular heights, are there yet. In front of 
the sixteenth, lie two English tombs of granite. There are no 
loopholes except in the south-wall, the principal attack came 
from that side. This wall is concealed on the outside by a large 
quickset hedge ; the French came up, thinking there was nothing 
in their way but the hedge, crossed it, and found the wall, an 
obstacle and an ambush, the English Guards behind, the thirty- 
eight loopholes pouring forth their fire at once, a storm of grape 
and of balls; and Soye's brigade broke there. Waterloo com- 
menced thus. 

2 9 8 

Les Miserables 

The orchard, however, was taken. They had no scaling 
ladders, but the French climbed the wall with their hands. 
They fought hand to hand under the trees. All this grass was 
soaked with blood. A battaHon from Nassau, seven hundred 
men, was annihilated there. On the outside, the wall, against 
which the two batteries of Kellermann were directed, is gnawed 
by grape. 

This orchard is as responsive as any other to the month of 
May. It has its golden blossoms and its daisies; the grass is 
high; farm horses are grazing; lines on which clothes are 
drying cross the intervals between the trees, making travellers 
bend their heads; you walk over that sward, and your foot 
sinks in the path of the mole. In the midst of the grass you 
notice an uprooted trunk, lying on the ground, but still growing 
green. Major Blackmann leaned back against it to die. Under 
a large tree near by fell the German general, Duplat, of a French 
family which fled on the revocation of the edict of Nantes. 
Close beside it leans a diseased old apple tree swathed in a 
bandage of straw and loam. Nearly all the apple trees are 
falling from old age. There is not one which does not show its 
cannon ball or its musket shot. Skeletons of dead trees abound 
in this orchard. Crows fly in the branches; beyond it is a 
wood full of violets. 

Bauduin killed, Foy wounded, fire, skug'iter, carnage, a 
brook made of English blood, of German blood, and of French 
blood, mingled in fury; a well filled with corpses, the regiment 
of Nassau and the regiment of Brunswick destroyed, Duplat 
killed, Blackmann killed, the English Guards crippled, twenty 
French battalions, out of the forty of Reille's corps, decimated, 
three thousand men, in this one ruin of Hougomont, sabred, 
slashed, slaughtered, shot, burned; and all this in order that 
to-day a peasant may say to a traveller: Monsieur, give me 
three francs ; if you like, I will explain to you the affair of Waterloo. 



LET us go back, for such is the story-teller's privilege, and place 
ourselves in the year 1815, a little before the date of the com- 
mencement of the action narrated in the first part of this book. 
Had it not rained on the night of the iyth of June, 1815, the 
future of Europe would have been changed. A few drops of 

Cosette 299 

water more or less prostrated Napoleon. That Waterloo should 
be the end of Austerlitz, Providence needed only a little rain, 
and an unseasonable cloud crossing the sky sufficed for the 
overthrow of a world. 

The battle of Waterloo and this gave Blucher time to come 
up could not be commenced before half -past eleven. Why? 
Because the ground was soft. It was necessary to wait for it to 
acquire some little firmness so that the artillery could manoeuvre. 

Napoleon was an artillery officer, and he never forgot it. 
The foundation of this prodigious captain was the man who, in 
his report to the Directory upon Aboukir, said : Sue h of our 
balls killed six men. All his plans of battle were made for pro- 
jectiles. To converge the artillery upon a given point was his 
key of victory. He treated the strategy of the hostile general 
as a citadel, and battered it to a breach. He overwhelmed the 
weak point with grape; he joined and resolved battles with 
cannon. There was marksmanship in his genius. To destroy 
squares, to pulverise regiments, to break lines, to crush and 
disperse masses, all this was for him, to strike, strike, strike in- 
cessantly, and he intrusted this duty to the cannon ball. A 
formidable method, which, joined to genius, made this sombre 
athlete of the pugilism of war invincible for fifteen years. 

On the 1 8th of June, 1815, he counted on his artillery the 
more because he had the advantage in numbers. Wellington 
had only a hundred and fifty-nine guns; Napoleon had two 
hundred and forty. 

Had the ground been dry, and the artillery able to move, the 
action would have been commenced at six o'clock in the morn- 
ing. The battle would have been won and finished at two 
o'clock, three hours before the Prussians turned the scale of 

How much fault is there on the part of Napoleon in the loss 
of this battle ? Is the shipwreck to be imputed to the pilot ? 

Was the evident physical decline of Napoleon accompanied 
at this time by a corresponding mental decline ? had his twenty 
years of war worn out the sword as well as the sheath, the soul 
as well as the body? was the veteran injuriously felt in the 
captain? in a word, was that genius, as many considerable 
historians have thought, under an eclipse? had he put on a 
frenzy to disguise his enfeeblement from himself? did he begin 
to waver, and be bewildered by a random blast ? was he becom- 
ing, a grave fault in a general, careless of danger ? in that class 
of material great men who may be called the giants of action, is 

300 Les Miserables 

there an age when their genius becomes shortsighted ? Old age 
has no hold on the geniuses of the ideal; for the Dantes and 
the Michael Angelos, to grow old is to grow great; for the 
Hannibals and the Bonapartes is it to grow less ? had Napoleon 
lost his clear sense of victory ? could he no longer recognise the 
shoal, no longer divine the snare, no longer discern the crumbling 
edge of the abyss ? had he lost the instinct of disaster ? was he, 
who formerly knew all the paths of triumph, and who, from the 
height of his flashing car, pointed them out with sovereign 
finger, now under such dark hallucination as to drive his tumul- 
tuous train of legions over the precipices? was he seized, at 
forty-six years, with a supreme madness ? was this titanic driver 
of Destiny now only a monstrous breakneck? 

We think not. 

His plan of battle was, all confess, a masterpiece. To march 
straight to the centre of the allied line, pierce the enemy, cut 
them in two, push the British half upon Hal and the Prussian 
half upon Tongres, make of Wellington and Blucher two frag- 
ments, carry Mont Saint Jean, seize Brussels, throw the German 
into the Rhine, and the Englishman into the sea. All this, for 
Napoleon, was in this battle. What would follow, anybody 
can see. 

We do not, of course, profess to give here the history o( 
Waterloo; one of the scenes that gave rise to the drama which 
we are describing hangs upon that battle; but the history of 
the battle is not our subject; that history moreover is told, and 
told in a masterly way, from one point of view by Napoleon, 
from the other point of view by Charras. As for us, we leave 
the two historians to their contest; we are only a witness at a 
distance, a passer in the plain, a seeker bending over this ground 
kneaded with human flesh, taking perhaps appearances for 
realities; we have no right to cope in the name of science with 
a mass of facts in which there is doubtless some mirage; we 
have neither the military experience nor the strategic ability 
which authorises a system; in our opinion, a chain of accidents 
overruled both captains at Waterloo; and when destiny is 
called in, this mysterious accused, we judge like the people, 
that artless judge. 

Cosette 301 



THOSE who would get a clear idea of the battle of Waterloo have 
only to lay down upon the ground in their mind a capital A. 
The left stroke of the A is the road from Nivelles, the right 
stroke is the road from Genappe, the cross of the A is the sunken 
road from Ohain to Braine 1'AlIeud. The top of the A is Mont 
Saint Jean, Wellington is there; the left-hand lower point is 
Hougomont, Reille is there with Jerome Bonaparte; the right- 
hand lower point is La Belle Alliance, Napoleon is there. A 
little below the point where the cross of the A meets and cuts 
the right stroke, is La Haie Sainte. At the middle of this cross 
is the precise point where the final battle-word was spoken. 
There the lion is placed, the involuntary symbol of the supreme 
heroism of the Imperial Guard. 

The triangle contained at the top of the A, between the two 
strokes and the cross, is the plateau of Mont Saint Jean. The 
struggle for this plateau was the whole of the battle. 

The wings of the two armies extended to the right and left 
of the two roads from Genappe and from Nivelles; D'Erlon 
being opposite Picton, Reille opposite Hill. 

Behind the point of the A, behind the plateau of Mont Saint 
Jean, is the forest of Soignes. 

As to the plain itself, we must imagine a vast undulating 
country; each wave commanding the next, and these undula- 
tions rising towards Mont Saint Jean, are there bounded by 
the forest. 

Two hostile armies upon a field of battle are two wrestlers. 
Their arms are locked; each seeks to throw the other. They 
grasp at every aid; a thicket is a point of support; a corner 
of a wall is a brace for the shoulder; for lack of a few sheds 
to lean upon a regiment loses its footing; a depression in the 
plain, a movement of the soil, a convenient cross path, a wood, 
a ravine, may catch the heel of this colossus which is called an 
army, and prevent him from falling. He who leaves the field 
is beaten. Hence, for the responsible chief, the necessity of 
examining the smallest tuft of trees and appreciating the 
slightest details of contour. 

Both generals had carefully studied the plain of Mont Saint 
Jean, now called the plain of Waterloo. Already in the pre- 

302 Les Miserables 

ceding year, Wellington, with the sagacity of prescience, had 
examined it as a possible site for a great battle. On this ground 
and for this contest Wellington had the favourable side, Napoleon 
the unfavourable. The English army was above, the French 
army below. 

To sketch here the appearance of Napoleon, on horseback, 
glass in hand, upon the heights of Rossomme, at dawn on the 
i8th of June, 1815, would be almost superfluous. Before we 
point him out, everybody has seen him. This calm profile 
under the little chapeau of the school of Brienne, this green 
uniform, the white facings concealing the stars on his breast, 
the overcoat concealing the epaulets, the bit of red sash under 
the waistcoat, the leather breeches, the white horse with his 
housings of purple velvet with crowned N.'s and eagles on the 
corners, the Hessian boots over silk stockings, the silver spurs, 
the Marengo sword, this whole form of the last Caesar lives in 
all imaginations, applauded by half the world, reprobated by 
the rest. 

That form has long been fully illuminated; it did have a 
certain traditional obscurity through which most heroes pass, 
and which always veils the truth for a longer or shorter time; 
but now the history is luminous and complete. 

This light of history is pitiless ; it has this strange and divine 
quality that, all luminous as it is, and precisely because it is 
luminous, it often casts a shadow just where we saw a radiance; 
of the same man it makes two different phantoms, and the one 
attacks and punishes the other, and the darkness of the despot 
struggles with the splendour of the captain. Hence results a 
truer measure in the final judgment of the nations. Babylon 
violated lessens Alexander; Rome enslaved lessens Caesar; 
massacred Jerusalem lessens Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. 
It is woe to a man to leave behind him a shadow which has his 



EVERYBODY knows the first phase of this battle; the difficult 
opening, uncertain, hesitating, threatening for both armies, but 
for the English still more than for the French. 

It had rained all night; the ground was softened by the 
shower; water lay here and there in the hollows of the plain as 

Cosette 303 

in basins; at some points the wheels sank in to the axles; the 
horses' girths dripped with liquid mud ; had not the wheat and 
rye spread down by that multitude of advancing carts filled the 
ruts and made a bed under the wheels, all movement, parti- 
cularly in the valleys on the side of Papelotte, would have 
been impossible. 

The affair opened late; Napoleon, as we have explained, had 
a habit of holding all his artillery in hand like a pistol, aiming 
now at one point, anon at another point of the battle, and he 
desired to wait until the field-batteries could wheel and gallop 
freely; for this the sun must come out and dry the ground. 
But the sun did not come out. He had not now the field of 
Austerlitz. When the first gun was fired, the English General 
Colville looked at his watch and noted that it was thirty-five 
minutes past eleven. 

The battle was commenced with fury, more fury perhaps than 
the emperor would have wished, by the left wing of the French 
at Hougomont. At the same time Napoleon attacked the 
centre by hurling the brigade of Quiot upon La Haie Sainte, and 
Ney pushed the right wing of the French against the left wing 
of the English which rested upon Papelotte. 

The attack upon Hougomont was partly a feint; tc draw 
Wellington that way, to make him incline to the left; this was 
the plan. This plan would have succeeded, had not the four 
companies of the English Guards, and the brave Belgians of 
Perponcher's division, resolutely held the position, enabling 
Wellington, instead of massing his forces upon that point, to 
limit himself to reinforcing them only by four additional 
companies of guards, and a Brunswick battalion. 

The attack of the French right wing upon Papelotte was 
intended to overwhelm the English left, cut the Brussels road, 
bar the passage of the Prussians, should they come, to carry 
Mont Saint Jean, drive back Wellington upon Hougomont, 
from thence upon Braine PAlleud, from thence upon Hal; 
nothing is clearer. With the exception of a few incidents, this 
attack succeeded. Papelotte was taken; La Haie Sainte 
was carried. 

Note a circumstance. There were in the English infantry, 
particularly in Kempt's brigade, many new recruits. These 
young soldiers, before our formidable infantry, were heroic; 
their inexperience bore itself boldly in the affair; they did espe- 
cially good service as skirmishers; the soldier as a skirmisher, 
to some extent left to himself, becomes, so to speak, his own 

304 Les Miserables 

general; these recruits exhibited something of French invention 
and French fury. This raw infantry showed enthusiasm. 
That displeased Wellington. 

After the capture of La Haie Sainte, the battle wavered. 

There is in this day from noon to four o'clock, an obscure 
interval; the middle of this battle is almost indistinct, and 
partakes of the thickness of the conflict. Twilight was gather- 
ing. You could perceive vast fluctuations in this mist, a giddy 
mirage, implements of war now almost unknown, the flaming 
colbacks, the waving sabretaches, the crossed shoulder-belts, 
the grenade cartridge boxes, the dolmans of the hussars, the 
red boots with a thousand creases, the heavy shakos festooned 
with fringe, the almost black infantry of Brunswick united with 
the scarlet infantry of England, the English soldiers with great 
white circular pads on their sleeves for epaulets, the Hanoverian 
light horse, with their oblong leather cap with copper bands and 
flowing plumes of red horse-hair, the Scotch with bare knees 
and plaids, the large white gaiters of our grenadiers; tableaux, 
not strategic lines, the need of Salvator Rosa, not of Gribeauval. 

A certain amount of tempest always mingles with a battle. 
Quid obscurum, quid divinum. Each historian traces the parti- 
cular lineament which pleases him in this hurly-burly. What- 
ever may be the combinations of the generals, the shock of 
armed masses has incalculable recoils in action, the two plans 
of the two leaders enter into each other, and are disarranged by 
each other. Such a point of the battle-field swallows up more 
combatants than such another, as the more or less spongy soil 
drinks up water thrown upon it faster or slower. You are 
obliged to pour out more soldiers there than you thought. An 
unforeseen expenditure. The line of battle waves and twists 
like a thread; streams of blood flow regardless of logic; the 
fronts of the armies undulate; regiments entering or retiring 
make capes and gulfs: all these shoals are continually swaying 
back and forth before each other ; where infantry was, artillery 
comes; where artillery was, cavalry rushes up; battalions are 
smoke. There was something there; look for it; it is gone; 
the vistas are displaced; the sombre folds advance and recoil; 
a kind of sepulchral wind pushes forwards, crowds back, swells 
and disperses these tragic multitudes. What is a hand to hand 
fight? an oscillation. A rigid mathematical plan tells the 
story of a minute, and not a day. To paint a battle needs those 
mighty painters who have chaos in their touch. Rembrandt is 
better than Vandermeulen. Vandermeulen, exact at noon, lies 

Cosette 305 

at three o'clock. Geometry deceives; the hurricane alone is 
true. This is what gives Folard the right to contradict Poly- 
bius. We must add that there is always a certain moment 
when the battle degenerates into a combat, particularises itself, 
scatters into innumerable details, which, to borrow the ex- 
pression of Napoleon himself, " belong rather to the biography 
of the regiments than to the history of the army." The historian, 
in this case, evidently has the right of abridgment. He can 
only seize upon the principal outlines of the struggle, and it is 
given to no narrator, however conscientious he may be, to fix 
absolutely the form of this horrible cloud which is called a battle. 

This, which is true of all great armed encounters, is particu- 
larly applicable to Waterloo. 

However, in the afternoon, at a certain moment, the battle 
assumed precision. 



TOWARDS four o'clock the situation of the English army was 
serious. The Prince of Orange commanded the centre, Hill 
the right wing, Picton the left wing. The Prince of Orange, 
desperate and intrepid, cried to the Hollando-Belgians : Nassau I 
Brunswick ! never retreat 1 Hill, exhausted, had fallen back 
upon Wellington. Picton was dead. At the very moment 
that the English had taken from the French the colours of the 
io5th of the line, the French had killed General Picton by a 
ball through the head. For Wellington the battle had two 
points of support, Hougomont and La Haie Sainte ; Hougomont 
still held out, but was burning ; La Haie Sainte had been taken. 
Of the German battalion which defended it, forty-two men only 
survived; all the officers, except five, were dead or prisoners. 
Three thousand combatants were massacred in that grange. 
A sergeant of the English Guards, the best boxer in England, 
reputed invulnerable by his comrades, had been killed by a 
little French drummer. Baring had been dislodged, Alten put 
to the sword. Several colours had been lost, one belonging to 
Alten's division, and one to the Luneburg battalion, borne by 
a prince of the family of Deux-Ponts. The Scotch Grays were 
no more; Ponsonby's heavy dragoons had been cut to pieces. 
That valiant cavalry had given way before the lancers of Bro 
and the cuirassiers of Travers; of their twelve hundred horses 


Les Miserables 

there remained six hundred; of three lieutenant-colonels, two 
lay on the ground, Hamilton wounded, Mather killed. Pon- 
sonby had fallen, pierced with seven thrusts of a lance. Gordon 
was dead, Marsh was dead. Two divisions, the fifth and the 
sixth, were destroyed. 

Hougomont yielding, La Haie Sainte taken, there was but 
one knot left, the centre. That still held; Wellington rein- 
forced it. He called thither Hill who was at Merbe Braine, 
and Chasse who was at Braine 1'Alleud. 

The centre of the English army, slightly concave, very dense 
and very compact, held a strong position. It occupied the 
plateau of Mont Saint Jean, with the village behind it and in 
front the declivity, which at that time was steep. At the rear 
it rested on this strong stone-house, then an outlying property 
of Nivelles, which marks the intersection of the roads, a sixteenth 
century pile so solid that the balls ricocheted against it without 
injuring it. All about the plateau, the English had cut away 
the hedges here and there, made embrasures in the hawthorns, 
thrust the mouth of a cannon between two branches, made 
loopholes in the thickets. Their artillery was in ambush under 
the shrubbery. This punic labour, undoubtedly fair in war, 
which allows snares, was so well done that Haxo, sent by the 
emperor at nine o'clock in the morning to reconnoitre the 
enemy's batteries, saw nothing of it, and returned to tell 
Napoleon that there was no obstacle, except the two barricades 
across the Nivelles and Genappe roads. It was the season when 
grain is at its height ; upon the verge of the plateau, a battalion 
of Kempt's brigade, the 95th, armed with carbines, was lying 
in the tall wheat. 

Thus supported and protected, the centre of the Anglo-Dutch 
army was well situated. 

The danger of this position was the forest of Soignes, then 
contiguous to the battle-field and separated by the ponds of 
Groenendael and Boitsfort. An army could not retreat there 
without being routed; regiments would have been dissolved 
immediately, and the artillery would have been lost in the 
swamps. A retreat, according to the opinion of many military 
men contested by others, it is true would have been an 
Utter rout. 

Wellington reinforced this centre by one of Chassis brigades, 
taken from the right wing, and one of Wincke's from the left, 
in addition to Clinton's division. To his English, to Halkett's 
regiments, to Mitchell's brigade, to Maitland's guards, he gave 

Cosette 307 

as supports the infantry of Brunswick, the Nassau contingent, 
Kielmansegge's Hanoverians, and Ompteda's Germans. The 
right wing, as Charras says, was bent back behind the centre. An 
enormous battery was faced with sand-bags at the place where 
now stands what is called " the Waterloo Museum." Welling- 
ton had besides, in a little depression of the grounds, Somerset's 
Horse Guards, fourteen hundred. This was the other half of 
that English cavalry, so justly celebrated. Ponsonby destroyed, 
Somerset was left. 

The battery, which, finished, would have been almost a 
redoubt, was disposed behind a very low garden wall, hastily 
covered with sand-bags and a broad, sloping bank of earth. 
This work was not finished; they had not time to stockade it. 

Wellington, anxious, but impassible, was on horseback, ai.d 
remained there the whole day in the same attitude, a little in 
front of the old mill of Mont Saint Jean, which is still standing, 
under an elm which an Englishman, an enthusiastic vandal, has 
since bought for two hundred francs, cut down and carried 
away. Wellington was frigidly heroic. The balls rained down. 
His aide-de-camp, Gordon, had just fallen at his side. Lord 
Hill, showing him a bursting shell, said: My Lord, what are 
your instruc tions, and what orders do you leave us, if you allow 
yourself to be killed ? To follow my example, answered Welling- 
ton. To Clinton, he said laconically: Hold this spot to the last 
man. The day was clearly going badly. Wellington cried to 
his old companions of Talavera, Vittoria, and Salamanca: Boys ! 
We must not be beat : what would they say of us in England ! 

About four o'clock, the English line staggered backwards. 
All at once only the artillery and the sharp-shooters were seen 
on the crest of the plateau, the rest disappeared ; the regiments, 
driven by the shells and bullets of the French, fell back into 
the valley now crossed by the cow-path of the farm of Mont 
Saint Jean ; a retrograde movement took place, the battle front 
of the English was slipping away, Wellington gave ground. 
Beginning retreat ! cried Napoleon. 



THE emperor, although sick and hurt in his saddle by a local 
affliction, had never been in so good humour as on that day. 
Since morning, his impenetrable countenance had worn a smile. 

3 o8 

Les Miserables 

On the i8th of June, 1815, that profound soul masked in marble, 
shone obscurely forth. The dark-browed man of Austerlitz 
was gay at Waterloo. The greatest, when foredoomed, present 
these contradictions. Our joys are shaded. The perfect smile 
belongs to God alone. 

Ridei Ccesar, Pompeius ftebit, said the legionaries of the 
Fulminatrix Legion. Pompey at this time was not to weep, but 
it is certain that Caesar laughed. 

From the previous evening, and in the night, at one o'clock, 
exploring on horseback, in the tempest and the rain, with 
Bertrand, the hills near Rossomme, and gratified to see the long 
line of the English fires illuminating all the horizon from Frische- 
mont to Braine 1'Alleud, it had seemed to him that destiny, for 
which he had made an appointment, for a certain day upon the 
field of Waterloo, was punctual; he stopped his horse, and 
remained some time motionless, watching the lightning and 
listening to the thunder; and this fatalist was heard to utter 
in the darkness these mysterious words: " We are in accord.'' 
Napoleon was deceived. They were no longer in accord. 

He had not taken a moment's sleep; every instant of that 
night had brought him a new joy. He passed along the whole 
line of the advanced guards, stopping here and there to speak 
to the pickets. At half-past two, near the wood of Hougomont, 
he heard the tread of a column in march; he thought for a 
moment that Wellington was falling back. He said: // is the 
English rear guard starting to get away. I shall take the six 
thousand Englishmen who have just arrived at Ostend prisoners. 
He chatted freely; he had recovered that animation of the 
disembarkation of the first of March, when he showed to the 
Grand Marshal the enthusiastic peasant of Gulf Juan, crying: 
Well, Bertrand, there is a reinforcement already I On the night 
of the i yth of June, he made fun of Wellington: This little 
Englishman must have his lesson, said Napoleon. The rain 
redoubled ; it thundered while the emperor was speaking. 

At half-past three in the morning one illusion was gone; 
officers sent out on a reconnaissance announced to him that the 
enemy was making no movement. Nothing was stirring, not 
a bivouac fire was extinguished. The English army was asleep. 
Deep silence was upon the earth; there was no noise save in 
the sky. At four o'clock, a peasant was brought to him by the 
scouts; this peasant had acted as guide to a brigade of English 
cavalry, probably Vivian's brigade on its way to take position 
at the village of Ohain, at the extreme left. At five o'clock, 

Cosette 309 

two Belgian deserters reported to him that they had just left 
their regiment, and that the English army was expecting a 
battle. So much the better t exclaimed Napoleon, / would much 
rather cut them to pieces than repulse them. 

In the morning, he alighted in the mud, upon the high bank 
at the corner of the road from Planchenoit, had a kitchen table 
and a peasant's chair brought from the farm of Rossomme, sat 
down, with a bunch of straw for a carpet, and spread out upon 
the table the plan of the battle-field, saying to Soult: "Pretty 
chequer-board ! " 

In consequence of the night's rain, the convoys of provisions, 
mired in the softened roads, had not arrived at dawn; the 
soldiers had not slept, and were wet and fasting; but for all 
this Napoleon cried out joyfully to Ney : We have ninety chances 
in a hundred. At eight o'clock the emperor's breakfast was 
brought. He had invited several generals. While breakfasting, 
it was related, that on the night but one before, Wellington was 
at a ball in Brussels, given by the Duchess of Somerset; and 
Soult, rude soldier that he was, with his archbishop's face, said : 
The ball is to-day. The emperor jested with Ney, who said: 
Wellington will not be so simple as to wait for your majesty. This 
was his manner usually. He was fond of faking, says Fleury de 
Chaboulon. His character at bottom was a play fid humour, says 
Gourgaud. He abounded in pleasantries, oftener grotesque than 
witty, says Benjamin Constant. These gaieties of a giant are 
worthy of remembrance. He called his grenadiers " the 
growlers;" he would pinch their ears and would pull their 
mustaches. The emperor did nothing but play tricks on us ; so 
one of them said. During the mysterious voyage from the 
island of Elba to France, on the 2yth of February, in the open 
sea, the French brig-of-war Zephyr having met the brig Incon- 
stant, on which Napoleon was concealed, and having asked the 
Inconstant for news of Napoleon, the emperor, who still had on 
his hat the white and amaranth cockade, sprinkled with bees, 
adopted by him in the island of Elba, took the speaking-trumpet, 
with a laugh, and answered himself: the emperor is getting on 
finely. He who laughs in this way is on familiar terms with 
events ; Napoleon had several of these bursts of laughter during 
his Waterloo breakfast. After breakfast, for a quarter of an 
hour, he collected his thoughts ; then two generals were seated 
on the bundle of straw, pen in hand, and paper on knee, and 
the emperor dictated the order of battle. 

At nine o'clock, at the instant when the French army, drawn 

310 Les Miserables 

up and set in motion in five columns, was deployed, the divi- 
sions upon two lines, the artillery between the brigades, music 
at the head, playing marches, with the rolling of drums and the 
sounding of trumpets mighty, vast, joyous, a sea of casques, 
sabres, and bayonets in the horizon, the emperor, excited, cried 
out, and repeated: " Magnificent! magnificent! " 

Between nine o'clock and half-past ten, the whole army, 
which seems incredible, had taken position, and was ranged in 
six lines, forming, to repeat the expression of the emperor, 
" the figure of six Vs." A few moments after the formation of 
the line of battle, in the midst of this profound silence, like that 
at the commencement of a storm, which precedes the fight, 
seeing as they filed by the three batteries of twelve pounders, 
detached by his orders from the three corps of D'Erlon, Reille, 
and Lobau, to commence the action by attacking Mont Saint 
Jean at the intersection of the roads from Nivelles and Genappe, 
the emperor struck Haxo on the shoulder, saying: There are 
twenty-four pretty girls, General. 

Sure of the event, he encouraged with a smile, as they passed 
before him, the company of sappers of the first corps, which he 
had designated to erect barricades in Mont Saint Jean, as soon 
as the village was carried. All this serenity was disturbed by 
but a word of haughty pity; on seeing, massed at his left, at 
a place where there is to-day a great tomb, those wonderful 
Scotch Grays, with their superb horses, he said: " // is a pity." 

Then he mounted his horse, rode forward from Rossomme, 
and chose for his point of view a narrow grassy ridge, at the 
right of the road from Genappe to Brussels, which was his 
second station during the battle. The third station, that of 
seven o'clock, between La Belle Alliance and La Haie Sainte is 
terrible; it is a considerable hill which can still be seen, and 
behind which the guard was massed in a depression .of the plain. 
About this hill the balls ricocheted over the paved road up to 
Napoleon. As at Brienne, he had over his head the whistling 
of balls and bullets. There have been gathered, almost upon 
the spot pressed by his horse's feet, crushed bullets, old sabre 
blades, and shapeless projectiles, eaten with rust. Scabra 
rubigine. Some years ago, a sixty-pound shell was dug up 
there, still loaded, the fuse having broken off even with the 
bomb. It was at this last station that the emperor said to his 
guide Lacoste, a hostile peasant, frightened, tied to a hussar's 
saddle, turning around at every volley of grape, and trying to 
hide behind Napoleon: Dolt, this is shameful. You will get 

Cosette 3 1 1 

yourself shot in the back. He who writes these lines has himself 
found in the loose slope of that hill, by turning up the earth, 
the remains of a bomb, disintegrated by the rust of forty-six 
years, and some old bits of iron which broke like alder twigs in 
his finger. 

The undulations of the diversely inclined plains, which were 
the theatre of the encounter of Napoleon and Wellington, are, 
as everybody knows, no longer what they were on the i8th of 
June, 1815. In taking from that fatal field wherewith to make 
its monument, its real form was destroyed: history, discon- 
certed, no longer recognises herself upon it. To glorify it, it 
has been disfigured. Wellington, two years afterwards, on 
seeing Waterloo, exclaimed: They have changed my battle-field. 
Where to-day is the great pyramid of earth surmounted by the 
lion, there was a ridge which sank away towards the Nivelles 
road in a practicable slope, but which, above the Genappe road, 
was almost an escarpment. The elevation of this escarpment 
may be measured to-day by the height of the two great burial 
mounds which embank the road from Genappe to Brussels ; the 
English tomb at the left, the German tomb at the right. There 
is no French tomb. For France that whole plain is a sepulchre. 
Thanks to the thousands and thousands of loads of earth used 
in the mound of a hundred and fifty feet high and half a mile 
in circuit, the plateau of Mont St. Jean is accessible by a gentle 
slope; on the day of the battle, especially on the side of La 
Haie Sainte, the declivity was steep and abrupt. The descent 
was there so precipitous that the English artillery did not see 
the farm below them at the bottom of the valley, the centre of 
the combat. On the i8th of June, 1815, the rain had gullied 
out this steep descent still more; the mud made the ascent still 
more difficult; it was not merely laborious, but men actually 
stuck in the mire. Along the crest of the plateau ran a sort 
of ditch, which could not possibly have been suspected by a 
distant observer. 

What was this ditch? we will tell. Braine 1'Alleud is a 
village of Belgium, Ohain is another. These villages, both 
hidden by the curving of the ground, are connected by a road 
about four miles long which crosses an undulating plain, often 
burying itself in the hills like a furrow, so that at certain points 
it is a ravine. In 1815, as now, this road cut the crest of the 
plateau of Mont Saint jean between the two roads from Genappe 
and Nivelles; only, to-day it is on a level with the plain; 
whereas then it was sunk between high banks. Its two slopes 

3 i 2 Les Miserables 

were taken away for the monumental mound. That road was 
and is still a trench for the greater part of its length; a trench 
in some parts a dozen feet deep, the slopes of which are so steep 
as to slide down here and there, especially in winter, after 
showers. Accidents happen there. The road was so narrow at 
the entrance of Braine 1'Alleud that a traveller was once crushed 
by a waggon, as is attested by a stone cross standing near the 
cemetery, which gives the name of the dead, Monsieur Bernard 
Debrye, merchant of Brussels, and the date of the accident, 
February, I637. 1 It was so deep at the plateau of Mont Saint 
Jean, that a peasant, Matthew Nicaise, had been crushed there 
in 1783 by the falling of the bank, as another stone cross attested ; 
the top of this has disappeared in the changes, but its overturned 
pedestal is still visible upon the sloping bank at the left of the 
road between La Haie Sainte and the farm of Mont Saint Jean. 
On the day of the battle, this sunken road, of which nothing 
gave warning, along the crest of Mont Saint Jean, a ditch at the 
summit of the escarpement, a trench concealed by the ground, 
was invisible, that is to say terrible. 


ON the morning of Waterloo then, Napoleon was satisfied. 

He was right; the plan of battle which he had conceived, as 
we have shown, was indeed admirable. 

After the battle was once commenced, its very diverse fortune, 
the resistance of Hougomont, the tenacity of La Haie Sainte, 
Bauduin killed, Foy put hors de combat, the unexpected wall 
against which Soye's brigade was broken, the fatal blunder of 
Guilleminot in having neither grenades nor powder, the miring 
of the batteries, the fifteen pieces without escort cut off by 
Uxbridge in a deep cut of a road, the slight effect of the bombs 

1 The inscription is as follows : 






A BRUXELLE LE (illegible) 


Cosette 3 1 3 

that fell within the English lines, burying themselves in the soil 
softened by the rain and only succeeding in making volcanoes 
of mud, so that the explosion was changed into a splash, the 
uselessness of Fire's demonstration upon Braine 1'Alleud, all this 
cavalry, fifteen squadrons, almost destroyed, the English right 
wing hardly disturbed, the left wing hardly moved, the strange 
mistake of Ney in massing, instead of drawing out, the four 
divisions of the first corps, the depth of twenty-seven ranks and 
the front of two hundred men offered up in this manner to 
grape, the frightful gaps made by the balls in these masses, the 
lack of connection between the attacking columns, the slanting 
battery suddenly unmasked upon their flank, Bourgeois, Don- 
zelot, and Durutte entangled, Quiot repulsed, Lieutenant Vieux, 
that Hercules sprung from the Polytechnic School, wounded at 
the moment when he was beating down with the blows of an 
axe the door of La Haie Sainte under the plunging fire of the 
English barricade barring the turn of the road from Genappe to 
Brussels, Marcognet's division, caught between infantry and 
cavalry, shot down at arm's length in the wheat field by Best and 
Pack, sabred by Ponsonby, his battery of seven pieces spiked, 
the Prince of Saxe Weimar holding and keeping Frischemont 
and Smohain in spite of Count D'Erlon, the colours of the 1051*1 
taken, the colours of the 43rd taken, this Prussian Black Hussar, 
brought in by the scouts of the flying column of three hundred 
chasseurs scouring the country between Wavre and Planchenoit, 
the disquieting things that this prisoner had said, Grouchy's 
delay, the fifteen hundred men killed in less than an hour_in the 
orchard of Hougomont, the eighteen hundred men fallen in still 
less time around La Haie Sainte all these stormy events, 
passing like battle-clouds before Napoleon, had hardly disturbed 
his countenance, and had not darkened its imperial expression 
of certainty. Napoleon was accustomed to look upon war 
fixedly > he never made figure by figure the tedious addition of 
details; the figures mattered little to him, provided they gave 
this total: Victory; though beginnings went wrong he was not 
alarmed at it, he who believed himself master and possessor of 
the end; he knew how to wait, believing himself beyond con- 
tingency, and he treated destiny as an equal treats an equal. 
He appeared to say to Fate: thou would'st not dare. 

Half light and half shadow, Napoleon felt himself protected 
in the right, and tolerated in the wrong. He had, or believed 
that he had, a connivance, one might almost say a complicity, 
with events, equivalent to the ancient invulnerability. 

314 Les Miserables 

However, when one has Beresina, Leipsic, and Fontainebleau 
behind him, it seems as if he might distrust Waterloo. A 
mysterious frown is becoming visible in the depths of the sky. 

At the moment when Wellington drew back, Napoleon started 
up. He saw the plateau of Mont Saint Jean suddenly laid bare, 
and the front of the English army disappear. It rallied, but 
kept concealed. The emperor half rose in his stirrups. The 
flash of victory passed into his eyes. 

Wellington hurled back on the forest of Soignes and destroyed ; 
that was the final overthrow of England by France; it was 
Cressy, Poitiers, Malplaquet, and Ramillies avenged. The man 
of Marengo was wiping out Agincourt. 

The emperor then, contemplating this terrible turn of for- 
tune, swept his glass for the last time over every point of the 
battle-field. His guard standing behind with grounded arms, 
looked up to him with a sort of religion. He was reflecting; he 
was examining the slopes, noting the ascents, scrutinising the 
tuft of trees, the square rye field, the footpath; he seemed to 
count every bush. He looked for some time at the English 
barricades on the two roads, two large abattis of trees, that on 
the Genappe road above La Haie Sainte, armed with two cannon, 
which alone, of all the English artillery, bore upon the bottom 
of the field of battle, and that of the Nivelles road where glistened 
the Dutch bayonets of Chasse's brigade. He noticed near that 
barricade the old chapel of Saint Nicholas, painted white, which 
is at the corner of the cross-road toward Braine 1'Alleud. He 
bent over and spoke in an under tone to the guide Lacoste. The 
guide made a negative sign of the head, probably treacherous. 

The emperor rose up and reflected. Wellington had fallen 
back. It remained only to complete this repulse by a crushing 

Napoleon, turning abruptly, sent off a courier at full speed 
to Paris to announce that the battle was won. 

Napoleon was one of those geniuses who rule the thunder. 

He had found his thunderbolt. 

He ordered Milhaud's cuirassiers to carry the plateau of Mont 
Saint Jean. 

Cosette 315 



THEY were three thousand five hundred. They formed a line 
of half a mile. They were gigantic men on colossal horses. 
There were twenty-six squadrons, and they had behind them, 
as a support, the division of Lefebvre Desnouettes, the hundred 
and six gendarmes d'elite, the Chasseurs of the Guard, eleven 
hundred and ninety-seven men, and the Lancers of the Guard, 
eight hundred and eighty lances. They wore casques without 
plumes, and cuirasses of wrought iron, with horse pistols in their 
holsters, and long sabre-swords. In the morning, they had 
been the admiration of the whole army, when at nine o'clock, 
with trumpets sounding, and all the bands playing, Veillons au 
salut de V empire, they came, in heavy column, one of their 
batteries on their flank, the other at their centre, and deployed 
in two ranks between the Genappe road and Frischemont, and 
took their position of battle in this powerful second line, so 
wisely made up by Napoleon, which, having at its extreme left 
the cuirassiers of Kellermann, and at its extreme right the 
cuirassiers of Milhaud, had, so to speak, two wings of iron. 

Aide-de-carnp Bernard brought them the emperor's order. 
Ney drew his sword and placed himself at their head. The 
enormous squadrons began to move. 

Then was seen a fearful sight. 

All this cavalry, with sabres drawn, banners waving, and 
trumpets sounding, formed in column by division, descended 
with an even movement and as one man with the precision of 
a bronze battering-ram opening a breach the hill of La Belle 
Alliance, sank into that formidable depth where so many men 
had already fallen, disappeared in the smoke, then, rising from 
this valley of shadow reappeared on the other side, still compact 
and serried, mounting at full trot, through a cloud of grape 
emptying itself upon them, the frightful acclivity of mud of 
the plateau of Mont Saint Jean. They rose, serious, menacing, 
imperturbable; in the intervals of the musketry and artillery 
could be heard the sound of this colossal tramp. Being in two 
divisions, they formed two columns ; Wathier's division had the 
right, Delord's the left. From a distance they would be taken 
for two immense serpents of steel stretching themselves towards 
the crest of the plateau. That ran through the battle like a 


Les Miserables 

Nothing like it had been seen since the taking of the grand 
redoubt at La Moscowa by the heavy cavalry; Murat was not 
there, but Ney was there. It seemed as if this mass had become 
a monster, and had but a single mind. Each squadron undu- 
lated and swelled like the ring of a polyp. They could be seen 
through the thick smoke, as it was broken here and there. It 
was one pell-mell of casques, cries, sabres; a furious bounding 
of horses among the cannon, and the flourish of trumpets, a 
terrible and disciplined tumult; over all, the cuirasses, like the 
scales of a hydra. 

These recitals appear to belong to another age. Something 
like this vision appeared, doubtless, in the old Orphic epics 
which tell of centaurs, antique hippanthropes, those titans with 
human faces, and chests like horses, whose gallop scaled Olympus, 
horrible, invulnerable, sublime; at once gods and beasts. 

An odd numerical coincidence, twenty-six battalions were to 
receive these twenty-six squadrons. Behind the crest of the 
plateau, under cover of the masked battery, the English infantry, 
formed in thirteen squares, two battalions to the square, and 
upon two lines seven on the first, and six on the second with 
musket to the shoulder, and eye upon their sights, waiting calm, 
silent, and immovable. They could not see the cuirassiers, and 
the cuirassiers could not see them. They listened to the rising 
of this tide of men. They heard the increasing sound of three 
thousand horses, the alternate and measured striking of their 
hoofs at full trot, the rattling of the cuirasses, the clicking of 
the sabres, and a sort of fierce roar of the coming host. There 
was a moment of fearful silence, then, suddenly, a long line of 
raised arms brandishing sabres appeared above the crest, with 
casques, trumpets, and standards, and three thousand faces 
with grey moustaches, crying, Vive 1'empereur! All this 
cavalry debouched on the plateau, and it was like the beginning 
of an earthquake. 

All at once, tragic to relate, at the left of the English, and on 
our right, the head of the column of cuirassiers reared with a 
frightful clamour. Arrived at the culminating point of the 
crest, unmanageable, full of fury, and bent upon the extermina- 
tion of the squares and cannons, the cuirassiers saw between 
themselves and the English a ditch, a grave. It was the sunken 
road of Ohain. 

It was a frightful moment. There was the ravine, unlocked 
for, yawning at the very feet of the horses, two fathoms deep 
between its double slope. The second rank pushed in the first, 

Cosette 317 

the third pushed in the second ; the horses reared, threw them- 
selves over, fell upon their backs, and struggled with their feet 
in the air, piling up and overturning their riders; no power to 
retreat; the whole column was nothing but a projectile. The 
force acquired to crush the English crushed the French. The 
inexorable ravine could not yield until it was filled ; riders and 
horses rolled in together pell-mell, grinding each other, making 
common flesh in this dreadful gulf, and when this grave was full 
of living men, the rest marched over them and passed on. 
Almost a third of the Dubois' brigade sank into this abyss. 

Here the loss of the battle began. 

A local tradition, which evidently exaggerates, says that two 
thousand horses and fifteen hundred men were buried in the 
sunken road of Ohain. This undoubtedly comprises all the 
other bodies thrown into this ravine on the morrow after the 

Napoleon, before ordering this charge of Milhaud's cuirassiers, 
had examined the ground, but could not see this hollow road, 
which did not make even a wrinkle on the surface of the plateau. 
Warned, however, and put on his guard by the little white 
chapel which marks its junction with the Nivelles road, he 
had, probably on the contingency of an obstacle, put a question 
to the guide Lacoste. The guide had answered no. It may 
almost be said that from this shake of a peasant's head came 
the catastrophe of Napoleon. 

Still other fatalities must arise. 

Was it possible that Napoleon should win this battle? We 
answer no. Why? Because of Wellington? Because of 
Bliicher? No. Because of God. 

For Bonaparte to be conqueror at Waterloo was not in the 
law of the nineteenth century. Another series of facts were 
preparing in which Napoleon had no place. The ill-will of 
events had long been announced. 

It was time that this vast man should fall. 

The excessive weight of this man in human destiny disturbed 
the equilibrium. This individual counted, of himself alone, 
more than the universe besides. These plethoras of all human 
vitality concentrated in a single head, the world mounting to 
the brain of one man, would be fatal to civilisation if they 
should endure. The moment had come for incorruptible 
supreme equity to look to it. Probably the principles and 
elements upon which regular gravitations in the moral order as 
well as in the material depend, began to murmur. Reeking 

318 Les Miserables 

blood, overcrowded cemeteries, weeping mothers these are 
formidable pleaders. When the earth is suffering from a sur- 
charge, there are mysterious meanings from the deeps which 
the heavens hear. 

Napoleon had been impeached before the Infinite, and his fall 
was decreed. 

He vexed God. 

Waterloo is not a battle; it is the change of front of the 



AT the same time with the ravine, the artillery was unmasked. 

Sixty cannon and the thirteen squares thundered and flashed 
into the cuirassiers. The brave General Delord gave the mili- 
tary salute to the English battery. 

All the English flying artillery took position in the squares at 
a gallop. The cuirassiers had not even time to breathe. The 
disaster of the sunken road had decimated, but not discouraged 
them. They were men who, diminished in number, grew 
greater in heart. 

Wathier's column alone had suffered from the disaster; 
Delord's, which Ney had sent obliquely to the left, as if he had 
a presentiment of the snare, arrived entire. 

The cuirassiers hurled themselves upon the English squares. 

At full gallop, with free rein, their sabres in their teeth, and 
their pistols in their hands, the attack began. 

There are moments in battle when the soul hardens a man 
even to changing the soldier into a statue, and all this flesh 
becomes granite. The English battalions, desperately assailed, 
did not yield an inch. 

Then it was frightful. 

All sides of the English squares were attacked at once. A 
whirlwind of frenzy enveloped them. This frigid infantry 
remained impassible. The first rank, with knee on the ground, 
received the cuirassiers on their bayonets, the second shot them 
down; behind the second rank, the cannoneers loaded their 
guns, the front of the square opened, made way for an eruption 
of grape, and closed again. The cuirassiers answered by rushing 
upon them with crushing force. Their great horses reared, 
trampled upon the ranks, leaped over the bayonets and fell, 

Cosctte 319 

gigantic, in the midst of these four living walls. The balls made 
gaps in the ranks of the cuirassiers, the cuirassiers made breaches 
in the squares. Files of men disappeared, ground down beneath 
the horses' feet. Bayonets were buried in the bellies of these 
centaurs. Hence a monstrosity of wounds never perhaps seen 
elsewhere. The squares, consumed by this furious cavalry, 
closed up without wavering. Inexhaustible in grape, they kept 
up an explosion in the midst of their assailants. It was a 
monstrous sight. These squares were battalions no longer, they 
were craters; these cuirassiers were cavalry no longer, they 
were a tempest. Each square was a volcano attacked by a 
thunder-cloud; the lava fought with the lightning. 

The square on the extreme right, the most exposed of all, 
being in the open field, was almost annihilated at the first 
shock. It was formed of the 75th regiment of Highlanders. 
The piper in the centre, while the work of extermination was 
going on, profoundly oblivious of all about him, casting down 
his melancholy eye full of the shadows of forests and lakes, 
seated upon a drum, his bagpipe under his arm, was playing 
his mountain airs. These Scotchmen died thinking of Ben 
Lothian, as the Greeks died remembering Argos. The sabre of 
a cuirassier, striking down the pibroch and the arm which bore 
it, caused the strain to cease by killing the player. 

The cuirassiers, relatively few in number, lessened by the 
catastrophe of the ravine, had to contend with almost the whole 
of the English army, but they multiplied themselves, each man 
became equal to ten. Nevertheless some Hanoverian battalions 
fell back. Wellington saw it and remembered his Cavalry. 
Had Napoleon, at that very moment, remembered his infantry, 
he would have won the battle. This forgetfulness was his great 
fatal blunder. 

Suddenly the assailing cuirassiers perceived that they were 
assailed. The English cavalry was upon their back. Before 
them the squares, behind them Somerset; Somerset, with the 
fourteen hundred dragoon guards. Somerset had on his right 
Dornberg with his German light-horse, and on his left Trip, 
with the Belgian carbineers. The cuirassiers, attacked front, 
flank, and rear, by infantry and cavalry, were compelled to- 
face in all directions. What was that to them ? They were a 
whirlwind. Their valour became unspeakable. 

Besides, they had behind them the ever thundering artillery. 
All that was necessary in order to wound such men in the back 
One of their cuirasses, with a hole in the left shoulder-plate 

320 Les Miserables 

made by a musket ball, is in the collection of the Waterloo 

With such Frenchmen only such Englishmen could cope. 

It was no longer a conflict, it was a darkness, a fury, a giddy 
vortex of souls and courage, a hurricane of sword-flashes. In 
an instant the fourteen hundred horse guards were but eight 
hundred; Fuller, their lieutenant-colonel, fell dead. Ney 
rushed up with the lancers and chasseurs of Lefebvre-Des- 
nouettes. The plateau of Mont Saint Jean was taken, retaken, 
taken again. The cuirassiers left the cavalry to return to the 
infantry, or more correctly, all this terrible multitude wrestled 
with each other without letting go their hold. The squares still 
held. There were twelve assaults. Ney had four horses killed 
under him. Half of the cuirassiers lay on the plateau. This 
struggle lasted two hours. 

The English army was terribly shaken. There is no doubt, 
if they had not been crippled in their first shock by the disaster 
of the sunken road, the cuirassiers would have overwhelmed 
the centre, and decided the victory. This wonderful cavalry 
astounded Clinton, who had seen Talavera and Badajos. 
Wellington, though three-fourths conquered, was struck with 
heroic admiration. He said in a low voice: " splendid ! " 

The cuirassiers annihilated seven squares out of thirteen, 
took or spiked sixty pieces of cannon, and took from the English 
regiments six colours, which three cuirassiers and three chasseurs 
of the guard carried to the emperor before the farm of La 
Belle Alliance. 

The situation of Wellington was growing worse. This 
strange battle was like a duel between two wounded infuriates 
who, while yet fighting and resisting, lose all their blood. 
Which of the two shall fall first? 

The struggle of the plateau continued. 

How far did the cuirassiers penetrate ? None can tell. One 
thing is certain: the day after the battle, a cuirassier and his 
horse were found dead under the frame of the hay-scales at 
Mont Saint Jean, at the point where the four roads from 
Nivelles, Genappe, La Hulpe, and Brussels meet. This horse- 
man had pierced the English lines. One of the men who took 
away the body still lives at Mont Saint Jean. His name is 
Dehaze ; he was then eighteen years old. 

Wellington felt that he was giving way. The crisis was 
upon him. 

The cuirassiers had not succeeded, in this sense, that the 

Cosette 321 

centre was not broken. All holding the plateau, nobody held 
it, and in fact it remained for the most part with the English. 
Wellington held the village and the crowning plain; Ney held 
only the crest and the slope. On both sides they seemed rooted 
in this funebral soil. 

But the enfeeblement of the English appeared irremediable. 
The haemorrhage of this army was horrible. Kempt, on the 
left wing, called for reinforcements. " Impossible" answered 
Wellington; " we must die on the spot we now occupy." Almost 
at the same moment singular coincidence which depicts the 
exhaustion of both armies Ney sent to Napoleon for infantry, 
and Napoleon exclaimed : " Infantry I where does he expect me 
to take them I Does he expect me to make them 1 " 

However, the English army was farthest gone. The furious 
onslaughts of these great squadrons with iron cuirasses and 
steel breastplates had ground up the infantry. A few men 
about a flag marked the place of a regiment; battalions were 
now commanded by captains or lieutenants. Alten's division, 
already so cut up at La Haie Sainte, was almost destroyed; 
the intrepid Belgians of Van Kluze's brigade strewed the rye 
field along the Nivelles road; there were hardly any left of 
those Dutch grenadiers who, in 1811, joined to our ranks in 
Spain, fought against Wellington, and who, in 1815, rallied on 
the English side, fought against Napoleon. The loss in officers 
was heavy. Lord Uxbridge, who buried his leg next day, had 
a knee fractured. If, on the side of the French, in this struggle 
of the cuirassiers, Delord, FHeritier, Colbert, Dnop, Travers, 
and Blancard were hors de combat, on the side of the English, 
Alten was wounded, Barne was wounded, Delancey was killed, 
Van Meeren was killed, Ompteda was killed, the entire staff of 
Wellington was decimated, and England had the worst share in 
this balance of blood. The second regiment of foot guards had 
lost five lieutenant-colonels, four captains, and three ensigns; 
the first battalion of the thirtieth infantry had lost twenty-four 
officers and one hundred and twelve soldiers; the seventy-ninth 
Highlanders had twenty-four officers wounded, eighteen officers 
killed, and four hundred and fifty soldiers slain. Cumberland's 
Hanoverian hussars, an entire regiment, having at its head 
Colonel Hacke, who was afterwards courtmartialed and broken, 
had drawn rein before the fight, and were in flight in the Forest 
of Soignes, spreading the panic as far as Brussels. Carts, 
ammunition-waggons, baggage-waggons, ambulances full of 
wounded, seeing the French gain ground, and approach the 


322 Les Miserables 

forest, fled precipitately; the Dutch, sabred by the French 
cavalry, cried murder ! From Vert-Coucou to Groenendael, for 
a distance of nearly six miles in the direction towards Brussels, 
the roads, according to the testimony of witnesses still alive, 
were choked with fugitives. This panic was such that it reached 
the Prince of Conde at Malines, and Louis XVIII. at Ghent. 
With the exception of the small reserve drawn up in echelon 
behind the hospital established at the farm of Mont Saint Jean, 
and the brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur on the flank of the 
left wing, Wellington's cavalry was exhausted. A number of 
batteries lay dismounted. These facts are confessed by Siborne ; 
and Pringle, exaggerating the disaster, says even that the 
Anglo-Dutch army was reduced to thirty-four thousand men. 
The Iron Duke remained calm, but his lips were pale. The 
Austrian Commissary, Vincent, the Spanish Commissary, Olava, 
present at the battle in the English staff, thought the duke was 
beyond hope. At five o'clock Wellington drew out his watch, 
and was heard to murmur these sombre words: Bliicher , or 
night J 

It was about this time that a distant line of bayonets glistened 
on the heights beyond Frischemont. 

Here is the turning-point in this colossal drama. 



WE understand the bitter mistake of Napoleon; Grouchy hoped 
for, Bliicher arriving ; death instead of life. 

Destiny has such turnings. Awaiting the world's throne, 
Saint Helena became visible. 

If the little cowboy, who acted as guide to Bulow, Bliicher's 
lieutenant, had advised him to debouch from the forest above 
Frischemont rather than below Planchenoit, the shaping of 
the nineteenth century would perhaps have been different. 
Napoleon would have won the battle of Waterloo. By any 
other road than below Planchenoit, the Prussian army would 
have brought up at a ravine impassable for artillery, and Bulow 
would not have arrived. 

Now, an hour of delay, as the Prussian general Muffling 
declares, and Blucher would not have found Wellington in 
position; " the battle was lost." 

It was time, we have seen, that Bulow should arrive. He had 

Cosettc 323 

bivouacked at Dion le Mont, and started on at dawn. But the 
roads were impracticable, and his division stuck in the mire. 
The cannon sank to the hubs in the ruts. Furthermore, he had 
to cross the Dyle on the narrow bridge of Wavre; the street 
leading to the bridge had been fired by the French ; the caissons 
and artillery waggons, being unable to pass between two rows of 
burning houses, had to wait till the fire was extinguished. It 
was noon before Bulow could reach Chapelle Saint Lambert. 

Had the action commenced two hours earlier, it would have 
been finished at four o'clock, and Bliicher would have fallen 
upon a field already won by Napoleon. Such are these immense 
chances, proportioned to an infinity, which we cannot grasp. 

As early as mid-day, the emperor, first of all, with his field 
glass, perceived in the extreme horizon something which fixed 
his attention. He said: " I see yonder a cloud which appears 
to me to be troops." Then he asked the Duke of Dalmatia: 
" Soult, what do you see towards Chapelle Saint Lambert? " 
The marshal, turning his glass that way, answered : " Four or 
five thousand men, sire. Grouchy, of course." Meanwhile it 
remained motionless in the haze. The glasses of the whole staff 
studied " the cloud " pointed out by the emperor. Some said: 
" They are columns halting." The most said: " It is trees." 
The fact is. that the cloud did not stir. The emperor detached 
Domon's division of light cavalry to reconnoitre this obscure 

Bulow, in fact, had not moved. His vanguard was very 
weak, and could do nothing. He had to wait for the bulk of 
his corps d'armee, and he was ordered to concentrate his force 
before entering into line; but at five o'clock, seeing Wellington's 
peril, Blucher ordered Bulow to attack, and uttered these re- 
markable words: " We must give the English army a breathing 


Soon after the divisions of Losthin, Hiller, Hacke, and Ryssel 
deployed in front of Lobau's corps, the cavalry of Prince 
William of Prussia debouched from the wood of Paris, Planche- 
noit was in flames, and the Prussian balls began to rain down 
even in the ranks of the guard in reserve behind Napoleon. 

324 Les Miserables 



THE rest is known; the irruption of a third army, the battle 
thrown out of joint, eighty-six pieces of artillery suddenly 
thundering forth, Pirch the First coming up with Bulow, Ziethen's 
cavalry led by Bliicher in person, the French crowded back, 
Marcognet swept from the plateau of Ohain, Durutte dislodged 
from Papelotte, Donzelot and Quiot recoiling, Lobau taken en 
echarpe, a new battle falling at night-fall upon our dismantled 
regiments, the whole English line assuming the offensive and 
pushed forward, the gigantic gap made in the French army, 
the English grape and the Prussian grape lending mutual aid, 
extermination, disaster in front, disaster in flank, the guard 
entering into line amid this terrible crumbling. 

Feeling that they were going to their death, they cried out: 
Vive I'Empereur I There is nothing more touching in history 
than this death-agony bursting forth in acclamations. 

The sky had been overcast all day. All at once, at this very 
moment it was eight o'clock at night the clouds in the 
horizon broke, and through the elms on the Nivelles road 
streamed the sinister red light of the setting sun. The rising 
sun shone upon Austerlitz. 

Each battalion of the guard, for this final effort, was com- 
manded by a general. Friant, Michel, Roguet, Harlet, Mallet, 
Poret de Morvan, were there. When the tall caps of the 
grenadiers of the guard with their large eagle plates appeared, 
symmetrical, drawn up in line, calm, in the smoke of that con- 
flict, the enemy felt respect for France ; they thought they saw 
twenty victories entering upon the field of battle, with wings 
extended, and those who were conquerors, thinking themselves 
conquered, recoiled; but Wellington cried: " Up, guards, and 
at them 1 " The red regiment of English guards, lying behind 
the hedges, rose up, a shower of grape riddled the tricoloured flag 
fluttering about our eagles, all hurled themselves forward, and 
the final carnage began. The Imperial Guard felt the army 
slipping away around them in the gloom, and the vast overthrow 
of the rout; they heard the sauve qui peut ! which had replaced 
the vive I'Empereur ! and, with flight behind them, they held on 
their course, battered more and more and dying faster and 
faster at every step. There were no weak souls or cowards 

Cosette 325 

there. The privates of that band were as heroic as their 
generals. Not a man flinched from the suicide. 

Ney, desperate, great in all the grandeur of accepted death, 
bared himself to every blow in this tempest. He had his horse 
killed under him. Reeking with sweat, fire in his eyes, froth 
upon his lips, his uniform unbuttoned, one of his epaulets half 
cut away by the sabre stroke of a horse-guard, his badge of the 
grand eagle pierced by a ball, bloody, covered with mud, 
magnificent, a broken sword in his hand, he said: " Come and 
see how a marshal of France dies upon the field of battle I " But 
in vain, he did not die. He was haggard and exasperated. He 
flung this question at Drouet D'Eiion. " What 1 are you not 
going to die ?" He cried out in the midst of all this artillery 
which was mowing down a handful of men: "Is there nothing, 
then, for me ? Oh 1 I would that all these English balls were 
buried in my body I " Unhappy man ! thou wast reserved for 
French bullets! 


THE route behind the guard was dismal. 

The army fell back rapidly from all sides at once, from 
Hougomont, from La Haie Sainte, from Papelotte, from 
Planchenoit. The cry: Treachery! was followed by the cry: 
Sauve qui pent! A disbanding army is a thaw. The whole 
bends, cracks, snaps, floats, rolls, falls, crashes, hurries, plunges. 
Mysterious disintegration. Ney borrows a horse, leaps upon 
him, and without hat, cravat, or sword, plants himself in the 
Brussels road, arresting at once the English and the French. 
He endeavours to hold the army, he calls them back, he re- 
proaches them, he grapples with the rout. He is swept away. 
The soldiers flee from him, crying : Vive Marshal Ney I Durutte's 
two regiments come and go, frightened, and tossed between the 
sabres of the Uhlans and the fire of the brigades of Kempt, Best, 
Pack, and Rylandt; rout is the worst of all conflicts; friends 
slay each other in their flight; squadrons and battalions are 
crushed and dispersed against each other, enormous foam of the 
battle. Lobau at one extremity, like Reille, at the other, is 
rolled away in the flood. In vain does Napoleon make walls 
with the remains of the guard; in vain does he expend his 
reserve squadrons in a last effort. Quiot gives way before 


Les Miserables 

Vivian, Kellermann before Vandeleur, Lobau before Bulow, 
Moraud before Pirch, Domon and Lubervic before Prince 
William of Prussia. Guyot, who had led the emperor's squad- 
rons to the charge, falls under the feet of the English horse. 
Napoleon gallops along the fugitives, harangues them, urges, 
threatens, entreats. The mouths', which in the morning were 
crying vive VEmpereur, are now agape; he is hardly recognised. 
The Prussian cavalry, just come up, spring forward, fling them- 
selves upon the enemy, sabre, cut, hack, kill, exterminate. 
Teams rush off, the guns are left to the care of themselves; 
the soldiers of the train unhitch the caissons and take the horses 
to escape; waggons upset, with their four wheels in the air, 
block up the road, and are accessories of massacre. They crush 
and they crowd; they trample upon the living and the lead. 
Arms are broken. A multitude fills roads, paths, bridges, piains, 
hills, valleys, woods, choked up by this flight of forty thousand 
men. Cries, despair, knapsacks and muskets cast into the rye, 
passages forced at the point of the sword; no more comrades, 
no more officers, no more generals; inexpressible dismay. 
Ziethen sabring France at his ease. Lions become kids. Such 
was this flight. 

At Genappe there was an effort to turn back, to form a line, 
to make a stand. Lobau rallied three hundred men. The 
entrance to the village was barricaded, but at the first volley of 
Prussian grape, all took to flight again, and Lobau was captured. 
The marks of that volley of grape are still to be seen upon the 
old gable of a brick ruin at the right of the road, a short distance 
before entering Genappe. The Prussians rushed into Genappe, 
furious, doubtless, at having conquered so little. The pursuit 
was monstrous. Bliicher gave orders to kill all. Roguet had 
set this sad example by threatening with death every French 
grenadier who should bring him a Prussian prisoner. Bliicher 
surpassed Roguet. The general of the Young Guard, Duhesme, 
caught at the door of a tavern in Genappe, gave up his sword to a 
Hussar of Death, who took the sword and killed the prisoner. 
The victory was completed by the assassination of the van- 
quished. Let us punish, since we are history: old Bliicher dis- 
graced himself. This ferocity filled the disaster to the brim. 
The desperate rout passed through Genappe, passed through 
Quatre Bras, passed through Sombreffe, passed through Frasnes, 
passed through Thuin, passed through Charleroi, and stopped 
only at the frontier. Alas ! who now was flying in such wise ? 
The Grand Army. 



This madness, this terror, this falling to ruins of the highest 
bravery which ever astonished history, can that be without 
cause ? No. The shadow of an enormous right hand rests on 
Waterloo. It is the day of Destiny. A power above man con- 
trolled that day. Hence, the loss of mind in dismay; hence, 
all these great souls yielding up their swords. Those who had 
conquered Europe fell to the ground, having nothing more to 
say or to do, feeling a terrible presence in the darkness. Hoc 
erai in fatis. That day, the perspective of the human race 
changed. Waterloo is the hinge of the nineteenth century. 
The disappearance of the great man was necessary for the 
advent of the great century. One, to whom there is no reply, 
took it in charge. The panic of heroes is explained. In the 
battle of Waterloo, there is more than a cloud, there is a meteor. 
God passed over it. 

In the gathering night, on a field near Genappe, Bernard and 
Bertrand seized by a flap of his coat and stopped a haggard, 
thoughtful, gloomy man, who, dragged thus far by the current 
of the rout, had dismounted, passed the bridle of his horse under 
his arm, and, with bewildered eye, was returning alone towards 
Waterloo. It was Napoleon endeavouring to advance again, 
mighty somnambulist of a vanished dream. 



A FEW squares of the guard, immovable in the flow of the rout 
as rocks in running water, held out until night. Night approach- 
ing, and death also, they waited this double shadow, and yielded, 
unfaltering, to its embrace. Each regiment, isolated from the 
others, and having no further communication with the army, 
which was broken in all directions, was dying alone. They had 
taken position, for this last struggle, some upon the heights of 
Rossomme, others in the plain of Mont Saint Jean. There, 
abandoned, conquered, terrible, these sombre squares suffered 
formidable martyrdom. Ulm, Wagram, Jena, Friedland, were 
dying in them. 

At dusk, towards nine o'clock in the evening, at the foot of the 
plateau of Mont Saint Jean, there remained but one. In this 
fatal valley, at the bottom of that slope which had been climbed 
by the cuirassiers, inundated now by the English masses, under 


Les Miserables 

the converging fire of the victorious artillery of the enemy, 
under a frightful storm of projectiles, this square fought on. 
It was commanded by an obscure officer whose name was 
Cambronne. At every discharge, the square grew less, but 
returned the fire. It replied to grape by bullets, narrowing in 
its four walls continually. Afar off the fugitives, stopping for 
a moment out of breath, heard in the darkness this dismal 
thunder decreasing. 

When this legion was reduced to a handful, when their flag 
was reduced to a shred, when their muskets, exhausted of 
ammunition, were reduced to nothing but clubs, when the pile 
of corpses was larger than the group of the living, there spread 
among the conquerors a sort of sacred terror about these sublime 
martyrs, and the English artillery, stopping to take breath, was 
silent. It was a kind of respite. These combatants had about 
them, as it were, a swarm of spectres, the outlines of men on 
horseback, the black profile of the cannons, the white sky seen 
through the wheels and the gun-carriages; the colossal death's 
head which heroes always see in the smoke of the battle was 
advancing upon them, and glaring at them. They could hear in 
the gloom of the twilight the loading of the pieces, the lighted 
matches like tigers' eyes in the night made a circle about their 
heads; all the Linstocks of the English batteries approached 
the guns, when, touched by their heroism, holding the death- 
moment suspended over these men, an English general, Colville, 
according to some, Maitland, according to others, cried to them : 
" Brave Frenchmen, surrender ! " Cambronne answered : 
" Merde I " 



OUT of respect to the French reader, the finest word, perhaps, 
that a Frenchman ever uttered cannot be repeated to him. We 
are prohibited from embalming a sublimity in history. 

At our own risk and peril, we violate that prohibition. 

Among these giants, then, there was one Titan Cambronne. 

To speak that word, and then to die, what could be more 
grand ! for to accept death is to die, and it is not the fault of this 
man, if, in the storm of grape, he survived. 

The man who won the battle of Waterloo is not Napoleon put 

Cosette 329 

to rout; nor Wellington giving way at four o'clock, desperate 
at five ; not Blucher, who did not fight ; the man who won the 
battle of Waterloo was Cambronne. 

To fulminate such a word at the thunderbolt which kills you 
is victory. 

To make this answer to disaster, to say this to destiny, to give 
this base for the future lion, to fling down this reply at the rain 
of the previous night, at the treacherous wall of Hougomont, at 
the sunken road of Ohain, at the delay of Grouchy, at the arrival 
of Blucher, to be ironical in the sepulchre, to act so as to remain 
upright after one shall have fallen, to drown in two syllables the 
European coalition, to offer to kings these privities already 
known to the Caesars, to make the last of words the first, by 
associating it with the glory of France, to close Waterloo 
insolently by a Mardi Gras, to complete Leonidas by Rabelais, 
to sum up this victory in a supreme word which cannot be pro- 
nounced, to lose the field, and to preserve history, after this 
carnage to have the laugh on his side, is immense. 

It is an insult to the thunderbolt. That attains the grandeur 
of ^Eschylus. 

This word of Cambronne's gives the effect of a fracture. It 
is the breaking of a heart by scorn; it is an overplus of agony 
in explosion. Who conquered? Wellington? No. Without 
Blucher he would have been lost. Blucher? No. If Welling- 
ton had not commenced, Blucher could not have finished. This 
Cambronne, this passer at the last hour, this unknown soldier, 
this infinitesimal of war, feels that there is there a lie in a 
catastrophe, doubly bitter; and at the moment when he is 
bursting with rage, he is offered this mockery life ? How can 
he restrain himself? They are there, all the kings of Europe, 
the fortunate generals, the thundering Joves, they have a 
hundred thousand victorious soldiers, and behind the hundred 
thousand, a million ; their guns, with matches lighted, are agape ; 
they have the Imperial Guard and the Grand Army under their 
feet; they have crushed Napoleon, and Cambronne only 
remains; there is none but this worm of the earth to protest. 
He will protest. Then he seeks for a word as one seeks for a 
sword. He froths at the mouth, and this froth is the word. 
Before this mean and monstrous victory, before this victory 
without victors, this desperate man straightens himself up, he 
suffers its enormity, but he establishes its nothingness; and he 
does more than spit upon it; and overwhelmed in numbers and 
material strength he finds in the soul an expression ordure. 

330 Les Miserables 

We repeat it, to say that, to do that, to find that, is to be the 

The soul of great days entered into this unknown man at that 
moment of death. Cambronne finds the word of Waterloo, 
as Rouget de 1'Isle finds the Marseillaise, through a superior 
inspiration. An effluence from the divine afflatus detaches 
itself, and passes over these men, and they tremble, and the one 
sings the supreme song, and the other utters the terrible cry. 
This word of titanic scorn Cambronne throws down not merely 
to Europe, in the name of the Empire, that would be but little ; 
he throws it down to the past, in the name of the Revolution. 
It is heard, and men recognise in Cambronne the old soul of the 
giants. It seems as if it were a speech of Danton, or a roar of 

To this word of Cambronne, the English voice replied : " Fire ! " 
the batteries flamed, the hill trembled, from all those brazen 
throats went forth a final vomiting of grape, terrific; a vast 
smoke, dusky white in the light of the rising moon, rolled out, 
and when the smoke was dissipated, there was nothing left. 
That formidable remnant was annihilated ; the guard was dead. 
The four walls of the living redoubt had fallen, hardly could a 
quivering be distinguished here and there among the corpses; 
and thus the French legions, grander than the Roman legions, 
expired at Mont Saint Jean on ground soaked in rain and blood, 
in the sombre wheat-fields, at the spot where now, at four o'clock 
in the morning, whistling, and gaily whipping up his horse, 
Joseph passes, who drives the mail from Nivelles. 



THE battle of Waterloo is an enigma. It is as obscure to those 
who won it as to him who lost it. To Napoleon it is a panic; 1 
Bliicher sees in it only fire ; Wellington conprehends nothing of 
it. Look at the reports. The bulletins are confused, the com- 
mentaries are foggy. The former stammer, the latter falter. 
Jomini separates the battle of Waterloo into four periods; 
Muffling divides it into three tides of fortune ; Charras alone, 
though upon some points our appreciation differs from his, has 

1 " A battle ended, a day finished, false measures repaired, greater 
successes assured for the morrow, all was lost by a moment of panic." 
(Napoleon, Dictations at St. Helena.) 

Cosettc 331 

seized with his keen glance the characteristic lineaments of that 
catastrophe of human genius struggling with divine destiny. 
All the other historians are blinded by the glare, and are groping 
about in that blindness. A day of lightnings, indeed, the down- 
fall of the military monarchy, which, to the great amazement 
of kings, has dragged with it all kingdoms, the fall of force, the 
overthrow of war. 

In this event, bearing the impress of superhuman necessity, 
man's part is nothing. 

Does taking away Waterloo from Wellington and from 
Blucher, detract anything from England and Germany? No. 
Neither illustrious England nor august Germany is in question 
in the problem of Waterloo. Thank heaven, nations are great 
aside from, the dismal chances of the sword. Neither Germany, 
nor England, nor France, is held in a scabbard. At this day 
when Waterloo is only a clicking of sabres, above Blucher, 
Germany has Goethe, and above Wellington, England has 
Byron. A vast uprising of ideas is peculiar to our century, and 
m this aurora England and Germany have a magnificent share. 
They are majestic because they think. The higher plane which 
they bring to civilisation is intrinsic to them; it comes from 
themselves, and not from an accident. The advancement 
which they have made in the nineteenth century does not spring 
from Waterloo. It is only barbarous nations who have a sudden 
growth after a victory. It is the fleeting vanity of the streamlet 
swelled by the storm. Civilised nations, especially in our times, 
are not exalted nor abased by the good or bad fortune of a 
captain. Their specific gravity in the human race results from 
something more than a combat. Their honour, thank God, 
their dignity, their light, their genius, are not numbers that 
heroes and conquerors, those gamblers, can cast into the lottery 
of battles. Oftentimes a battle lost is progress attained. Less 
glory, more liberty. The drum is silent, reason speaks. It is 
the game at which he who loses, gains. Let us speak, then, 
coolly of Waterloo on both sides. Let us render unto Fortune 
the things that are Fortune's, and unto God the things that are 
God's. What is Waterloo ? A victory? No. A prize. 

A prize won by Europe, paid by France. 

It was not much to put a lion there. 

Waterloo moreover is the strangest encounter in history. 
Napoleon and Wellington: they are not enemies, they are 
opposites. Never has God, who takes pleasure in antitheses, 
made a more striking contrast and a more extraordinary meeting. 

33 2 Les Miserables 

On one side, precision, foresight, geometry, prudence, retreat 
assured, reserves economised, obstinate composure, imperturb- 
able method, strategy to profit by the ground, tactics to balance 
battalions, carnage drawn to the line, war directed watch in 
hand, nothing left voluntarily to chance, ancient classic courage, 
absolute correctness; on the other, intuition, inspiration, a 
military marvel, a superhuman instinct; a flashing glance, a 
mysterious something which gazes like the eagle and strikes like 
the thunderbolt, prodigious art in disdainful impetuosity, all 
the mysteries of a deep soul, intimacy with Destiny; river, 
plain, forest, hill, commanded, and in some sort forced to obey, 
the despot going even so far as to tyrannise over the battle- 
field; faith in a star joined to strategic science, increasing 
it, but disturbing it. Wellington was the Barreme of war, 
Napoleon was its Michael Angelo, and this time genius was 
vanquished by calculation. 

On both sides they were expecting somebody. It was the 
exact calculator who succeeded. Napoleon expected Grouchy; 
he did not come. Wellington expected Blucher; he came. 

Wellington] is classic war taking her revenge. Bonaparte, 
in his dawn, had met her in Italy, and defeated her superbly. 
The old owl fled before the young vulture. Ancient tactics had 
been not only thunderstruck, but had received mortal offence ? 
What was this Corsican of twenty-six? What meant this 
brilliant novice who, having everything against him, nothing 
for him, with no provisions, no munitions, no cannon, no shoes, 
almost without an army, with a handful of men against multi- 
tudes, rushed upon allied Europe, and absurdly gained victories 
that were impossible? Whence came this thundering madman 
who, almost without taking breath, and with the same set of the 
combatants in hand, pulverised one after the other the five 
armies of the Emperor of Germany, overthrowing Beaulieu upon 
Alvinzi, Wurmser upon Beaulieu, Melas upon Wurmser, Mack 
upon Melas? Who was this new-comer in war with the confi- 
dence of destiny? The academic military school excommuni- 
cated him as it ran away. Thence an implacable hatred of the 
old system of war against the new, of the correct sabre against 
the flashing sword, and of the chequer-board against genius. 
On the 1 8th of June, 1815, this hatred had the last word, and 
under Lodi, Montebello, Montenotte, Mantua, Marengo, Arcola, 
it wrote: Waterloo. Triumph of the commonplace, grateful 
to majorities. Destiny consented to this irony. In his decline, 
Napoleon again found Wurmser before him, but young. Indeed, 

Cosette 333 

to produce Wurmser, it would have been enough to whiten 
Wellington's hair. 

Waterloo is a battle of the first rank won by a captain of the 

What is truly admirable in the battle of Waterloo is England, 
English firmness, English resolution, English blood; the superb 
thing which England had there may it not displease her is 
herself. It is not her captain, it is her army. 

Wellington, strangely ungrateful, declared in a letter to Lord 
Bathurst that his army, the army that fought on the i8th of 
June, 1815, was a " detestable army." What does this dark 
assemblage of bones, buried beneath the furrows of Waterloo, 
think of that? 

England has been too modest in regard to Wellington. To 
make Wellington so great is to belittle England. Wellington is 
but a hero like the rest. These Scotch Grays, these Horse 
Guards, these regiments of Maitland and of Mitchell, this 
infantry of Pack and Kempt, this cavalry of Ponsonby and of 
Somerset, these Highlanders playing the bagpipe under the 
storm of grape, these battalions of Rylandt, these raw recruits 
who hardly knew how to handle a musket, holding out against 
the veteran bands of Essling and Rivoli all that is grand. 
Wellington was tenacious, that was his merit, and we do not 
undervalue it, but the least of his foot-soldiers or his horsemen 
was quite as firm as he. The iron soldier is as good as the Iron 
Duke. For our part, all our glorification goes to the English 
soldier, the English army, the English people. If trophy there 
be, to England the trophy is due. The Waterloo column would 
be' more just if, instead of the figure of a man, it lifted to the 
clouds the statue of a nation. 

But this great England will be offended at what we say here. 
She has still, after her 1688 and our 1789, the feudal illusion. 
She believes in hereditary right, and in the hierarchy. This 
people, surpassed by none in might and glory, esteems itself as 
a nation, not as a people. So much so that as a people they 
subordinate themselves willingly, and take a Lord for a head. 
Workmen, they submit to be despised; soldiers, they submit 
to be whipped. We remember that at the battle of Inkerman 
a sergeant who, as it appeared, had saved the army, could not be 
mentioned by Lord Raglan, the English military hierarchy not 
permitting any hero below the rank of officer to be spoken of 
in a report. 

What we admire above all, in an encounter like that of 

334 Les Miserables 

Waterloo, is the prodigious skill of fortune. The night's rain, 
the wall of Hougomont, the sunken road of Ohain, Grouchy 
deaf to cannon, Napoleon's guide who deceives him, Bulow's 
guide who leads him right; all this cataclysm is wonderfully 
carried out. 

Taken as a whole, let us say, Waterloo was more of a massacre 
than a battle. 

Of all great battles, Waterloo is that which has the shortest 
line in proportion to the number engaged. Napoleon, two 
miles, Wellington, a mile and a half; seventy-two thousand 
men on each side. From this density came the carnage. 

The calculation has been made and this proportion estab- 
lished: Loss of men: at Austerlitz, French, fourteen per cent. ; 
Russians, thirty per cent. ; Austrians, forty-four per cent. At 
Wagram, French, thirteen per cent.; Austrians, fourteen. At 
La Moscowa, French, thirty-seven per cent.; Russians, forty- 
four. At Bautzen, French, thirteen per cent.; Russians and 
Prussians, fourteen. At Waterloo, French, fifty-six per cent; 
Allies, thirty-one. Average for Waterloo, forty-one per cent. 
A hundred and forty-four thousand men; sixty thousand dead. 

The field of Waterloo to-day has that calm which belongs to 
the earth, impassive support of man; it resembles any other 

At night, however, a sort of visionary mist arises from it, and 
if some traveller be walking there, if he looks, if he listens, if 
he dreams like Virgil in the fatal plain of Philippi, he becomes 
possessed by the hallucination of the disaster. The terrible i8th 
of June is again before him ; the artificial hill of the monument 
fades away, this lion, whatever it be, is dispelled; the field of 
battle resumes its reality; the lines of infantry undulate in the 
plain, furious gallops traverse the horizon; the bewildered 
dreamer sees the flash of sabres, the glistening of bayonets, the 
bursting of shells, the awful intermingling of the thunders; he 
hears, like a death-rattle from the depths of a tomb, the vague 
clamour of the phantom battle; these shadows are grenadiers; 
these gleams are cuirassiers; this skeleton is Napoleon; that 
skeleton is Wellington; all this is unreal, and yet it clashes and 
combats; and the ravines run red, and the trees shiver, and there 
is fury even in the clouds, and, in the darkness, all those savage 
heights, Mont Saint Jean, Hougomont, Frischemont, Papelotte, 
Planchenoit, appear confusedly crowned with whirlwinds of 
spectres exterminating each other. 

Cosette 335 



THERE exists a very respectable liberal school, which does not 
hate Waterloo. We are not of them. To us Waterloo is but 
the unconscious date of liberty. That such an eagle should 
come from such an egg, is certainly an unlooked-for thing. 

Waterloo, if we place ourselves at the culminating point of 
view of the question, is intentionally a counter-revolutionary 
victory. It is Europe against France ; it is Petersburg, Berlin, 
and Vienna against Paris; it is the status quo against the 
initiative; it is the i4th of June, 1789, attacked by the zoth 
March, 1815; it is the monarchies clearing the decks for action 
against indomitable French uprising. The final extinction of 
this vast people, for twenty-six years in eruption, such was the 
dream. It was the solidarity of the Brunswicks, the Nassaus, 
the Romanoffs, the Hohenzollerns, and the Hapsburgs, with 
the Bourbons. Divine right rides behind with Waterloo. It 
is true that the empire having been despotic, royalty, by the 
natural reaction of things, was forced to become liberal, and 
also that a constitutional order has indirectly sprung from 
Waterloo, to the great regret of the conquerors. The fact is, 
that revolution cannot be conquered, and that being provi- 
dential and absolutely decreed, it reappears continually, before 
Waterloo in Bonaparte, throwing down the old thrones, after 
Waterloo in Louis XVIII. granting and submitting to the 
charter. Bonaparte places a postillion on the throne of Naples- 
and a sergeant on the throne of Sweden, employing inequality 
to demonstrate equality ; Louis XVIII. at Saint Ouen counter- 
signs the declaration of the rights of man. Would you realise 
what Revolution is, call it Progress; and would you realise 
what Progress is, call it To-morrow. To-morrow performs its 
work irresistibly, and it performs it from to-day. It always 
reaches its aim through unexpected means. It employs 
Wellington to make Foy, who was only a soldier, an orator. 
Foy falls at Hougomont and rises again at the rostrum. Thus 
progress goes on. No tool comes amiss to this workman. It 
adjusts to its divine work, without being disconcerted, the 
man who strode over the Alps, and the good old tottering 
invalid of the Pdre Elysee. It makes use of the cripple as well 
as the conqueror, the conqueror without, the cripple within. 

336 Les Miserables 

Waterloo, by cutting short the demolition of European thrones 
by the sword, has had no other effect than to continue the 
revolutionary work in another -way. The saberers have gone 
out, the time of the thinkers has come. The age which Waterloo 
would have checked, has marched on and pursued its course. 
This inauspicious victory has been conquered by liberty. 

In fine and incontestably, that which triumphed at Waterloo; 
that which smiled behind Wellington ; that which brought him 
all the marshals' batons of Europe, among them, it is said, the 
baton of marshal of France ; that which joyfully rolled barrows 
of earth full of bones to rear the mound of the lion ; that which 
has written triumphantly on that pedestal this date: June i8th, 
1815; that which encouraged Bliicher sabering the fugitives; 
that which, from the height of the plateau of Mont Saint Jean, 
hung over France as over a prey, was Counter-revolution. It 
was Counter-revolution which murmured this infamous word 
dismemberment. Arriving at Paris, it had a near view of the 
crater; it felt that these ashes were burning its feet, and took 
a second thought. It came back lisping of a charter. 

Let us see in Waterloo only what there is in Waterloo. Of 
intentional liberty, nothing. The Counter-revolution was 
involuntarily liberal, as, by a corresponding phenomenon, 
Napoleon was involuntarily revolutionary. On the i8th June, 
1815, Robespierre on horseback was thrown from the saddle. 



END of the dictatorship. The whole European system fell. 

The empire sank into a darkness which resembled that of the 
expiring Roman world. It rose again from the depths, as in 
the time of the Barbarians. Only, the barbarism of 1815, which 
should be called by its special name, the counter-revolution, 
was short-winded, soon out of breath, and soon stopped. The 
empire, we must acknowledge, was wept over, and wept over 
by heroic eyes. If there be glory in the sceptre-sword, the 
empire had been glory itself. It had spread over the earth all 
the light which tyranny can give a sombre light. Let us say 
further an obscure light. Compared to the real day, it is 
night. This disappearance of night had the effect of an eclipse. 

Louis XVIII. returned to Paris. The dancing in a ring of 
the 8th of July effaced the enthusiasm of the 2oth of March. 

Cosette 337 

The Corsican became the antithesis of the Bearnois. The flag 
of the dome of the Tuileries was white. The exile mounted the 
throne. The fir table of Hartwell took its place before the 
chair decorated with fleur-de-lis of Louis XIV. Men talked of 
Bouvines and Fontenoy as of yesterday, Austerlitz being out of 
date. The altar and the throne fraternised majestically. One 
of the most unquestionably safe forms of society in the nine- 
teenth century was established in France and on the Continent'. 
Europe put on the white cockade. Trestaillon became famous. 
The device non pluribus impar reappeared in the radiations on 
the facade of the barracks of the quay of Orsay. Where there 
had been an imperial guard, there was a red house. The arc 
du Carrousel, covered with awkwardly gained victories, dis- 
owned by these new times, and a little ashamed, perhaps, of 
Marengo and Arcola, extricated itself from the affair by the 
statue of the Duke of Angouleme. The cemetery de la Made- 
leine, the terrible Potter's field of '93, was covered with marble 
and jasper, the bones of Louis XVI. and Marie-Antoinette 
being in this dust. In the ditch of Vincennes, a sepulchral 
column rose from the ground, recalling the fact that the Duke 
of Enghien died in the same month in which Napoleon was 
crowned. Pope Pius VII., who had performed this consecra- 
tion very near the time of this death, tranquilly blessed the fall 
as he had blessed the elevation. At Schcenbrunn there was a 
little shadow four years old which it was seditious to call _ the 
King of Rome. And these things were done, and these kings 
resumed their thrones, and the master of Europe was put in a 
cage, and the old regime became the new, and all the light and 
shade of the earth changed place, because, in the afternoon of 
a summer's day, a cowboy said to a Prussian in a wood: " Pass 
this way and not that ! " 

This 1815 was a sort of gloomy April. The old unhealthy and 
poisonous realities took on new shapes. Falsehood espoused 
1789, divine right masked itself under a charter, fictions became 
constitutional, prejudices, superstitions and mental reservations, 
with articlei4 hugged to the heart, put on a varnish of liberalism. 
Serpents changing their skins. 

Man had been at once made greater and made less by 
Napoleon. The ideal, under this splendid material reign, had 
received the strange name of ideology. Serious recklessness of 
a great man, to turn the future into derision. The people, how- 
ever, that food for cannon so fond of the cannoneer, looked for 
him. Where is he? What is he doing ? " Napoleon is dead," 


Les Miserables 

said a visitor to an invalid of Marengo and Waterloo. " He 
dead I " cried the soldier ; " are you sure of that 1 " Imagination 
deified this prostrate man. The heart of Europe, after Waterloo, 
was gloomy. An enormous void remained long after the 
disappearance of Napoleon. 

Kings threw themselves into this void. Old Europe profited 
by it to assume a new form. There was a Holy Alliance. 
Belle Alliance the fatal field of Waterloo had already said in 

In presence of and confronting this ancient Europe made 
over, the lineaments of a new France began to appear. The 
future, the jest of the emperor, made its appearance. It had 
on its brow this star, Liberty. The ardent eyes of rising 
generations turned towards it. Strange to tell, men became 
enamoured at the same time of this future, Liberty, and of this 
past, Napoleon. Defeat had magnified the vanquished. Bona- 
parte fallen seemed higher than Bonaparte in power. Those 
who had triumphed, were struck with fear. England guarded 
him through Hudson Lowe, and France watched him through 
Montchenu. His folded arms became the anxiety of thrones. 
Alexander called him, My Wakefulness. This terror arose from 
the amount of revolution he had in him. This is the explanation 
and excuse of Bonapartist liberalism. This phantom made the 
old world quake. Kings reigned ill at ease with the rock of 
Saint Helena in the horizon. 

While Napoleon was dying at Longwood, the sixty thousand 
men fallen on the field of Waterloo tranquilly mouldered away, 
and something of their peace spread over the world. The con- 
gress of Vienna made from it the treaties of 1815, and Europe 
called that the Restoration. 

Such is Waterloo. 

But what is that to the Infinite? All this tempest, all this 
cloud, this war, then this peace, all this darkness, disturb not 
for a moment the light of that infinite Eye, before which the 
least of insects leaping from one blade of grass to another equals 
the eagle flying from spire to spire among the towers of Notre- 

Cosette 339 



WE return, for it is a requirement of this book, to the fatal field 
of battle. 

On the i8th of June, 1815, the moon was full. Its light 
favoured the ferocious pursuit of Blucher, disclosed the traces 
of the fugitives, delivered this helpless mass to the bloodthirsty 
Prussian cavalry, and aided in the massacre. Night sometimes 
lends such tragic assistance to catastrophe. 

When the last gun had been fired the plain of Mont Saint Jean 
remained deserted. 

The English occupied the camp of the French; it is the usual 
verification of victory to sleep in the bed of the vanquished. 
They established their bivouac around Rossomme. The 
Prussians, let loose upon the fugitives, pushed forward. Welling- 
ton went to the village of Waterloo to make up his report to 
Lord Bathurst. 

If ever the sic vos non vobis were applicable, it is surely to this 
village of Waterloo. Waterloo did nothing, and was two miles 
distant from the action. Mont Saint Jean was cannonaded, 
Hougomont was burned, Papelotte was burned, Planchenoit 
was burned, La Haie Sainte was taken by assault, La Belle 
Alliance witnessed the meeting of the two conquerors; these 
names are scarcely known, and Waterloo, which had nothing to 
do with the battle, has all the honour of it. 

We are not of those who glorify war; when the opportunity 
presents itself we describe its realities. War has frightful 
beauties which we have not concealed; it has also, we must 
admit, some deformities. One of the most surprising is the 
eager spoliation of the dead after a victory. The day after a 
battle dawns upon naked corpses. 

Who does this? Who thus sullies the triumph? Whose is 
this hideous furtive hand which glides into the pocket of victory ? 
Who are these pickpockets following their trade in the wake 
of glory? Some philosophers, Voltaire among others, affirm 
that they are precisely those who have achieved the glory. 
They are the same, say they, there is no exchange; those who 
survive pillage those who succumb. The hero of the day is the 
vampire of the night. A man has a right, after all, to despoil 
in part a corpse which he has made. 

34 Les Miserables 

For our part we do not believe this. To gather laurels and 
to steal the shoes from a dead man, seems to us impossible to 
the same hand. 

One thing is certain, that, after the conquerors, come the 
robbers. But let us place the soldier, especially the soldier of 
to-day, beyond this charge. 

Every army has a train, and there the accusation should lie. 
Bats, half brigand and half valet, all species of night bird 
engendered by this twilight which is called war, bearers of 
uniforms who never fight, sham invalids, formidable cripples, 
interloping sutlers, travelling, sometimes with their wives, on 
little carts and stealing what they sell, beggars offering them- 
selves as guides to officers, army-servants, marauders; armies 
on the march formerly we do not speak of the present time 
were followed by all these, to such an extent that, in technical 
language, they are called " camp-followers." No army and no 
nation was responsible for these beings; they spoke Italian and 
followed the Germans; they spoke French and followed the 
English. It was by one of these wretches, a Spanish camp- 
follower who spoke French, that the Marquis of Fervacques, 
deceived by his Picardy gibberish, and taking him for one of us, 
was treacherously killed and robbed on the very battle-field 
during the night which followed the victory of Cerisoles. From 
marauding came the marauder. The detestable maxim, .Live 
on your enemy, produced this leper, which rigid discipline alone 
can cure. There are reputations which are illusory; it is not 
always known why certain generals, though they have been 
great, have been so popular. Turenne was adored by his soldiers 
because he tolerated pillage; the permission to do wrong forms 
part of kindness; Turenne was so kind that he allowed the 
Palatinate to be burned and put to the sword. There were seen 
in the wake of armies more or less of marauders according as the 
commander was more or less severe. Hoche and Marceau had 
no camp-followers; Wellington we gladly do him this justice 
had few. 

However, during the night of the i8th of June, the dead were 
despoiled. Wellington was rigid; he ordered whoever should 
be taken in the act to be put to death; but rapine is persevering. 
The marauders were robbing in one corner of the battle-field 
while they were shooting them in another. 

The moon was an evil genius on this plain. 

Towards midnight a man was prowling or rather crawling 
along the sunken road of Ohain. He was, to all appearance, one 

Cosette 341 

of those whom we have just described, neither English nor 
French, peasant nor soldier, less a man than a ghoul, attracted 
by the scent of the corpses, counting theft for victory, coming to 
rifle Waterloo. He was dressed in a blouse which was in part 
a capote, was restless and daring, looking behind and before as 
he went. Who was this man ? Night, probably, knew more of 
his doings than day ! He had no knapsack, but evidently large 
pockets under his capote. From time to time he stopped, 
examined the plain around him as if to see if he were observed, 
stooped down suddenly, stirred on the ground something silent 
and motionless, then rose up and skulked away. His gliding 
movement, his attitudes, his rapid and mysterious gestures, 
made him seem like those twilight spectres which haunt ruins 
and which the old Norman legends call the Goers. 

Certain nocturnal water-birds make such motions in marshes. 

An eye which had carefully penetrated all this haze, might 
have noticed at some distance, standing as it were concealed 
behind the ruin which is on the Nivelle road at the corner of the 
route from Mont Saint Jean to Braine 1'Alleud, a sort of little 
sutler's waggon, covered with tarred osiers, harnessed to a 
famished jade browsing nettles through her bit, and in the 
waggon a sort of woman seated on some trunks and packages. 
Perhaps there was some connection between this waggon and 
the prowler. 

The night was serene. Not a cloud was in the zenith. What 
mattered it that the earth was red, the moon retained her white- 
ness. Such is the indifference of heaven. In the meadows, 
branches of trees broken by grape, but not fallen, and held by 
the bark, swung gently in the night wind. A breath, almost 
a respiration, moved the brushwood. There was a quivering in 
the grass which seemed like the departure of souls. 

The tread of the patrols and groundsmen of the English camp 
could be heard dimly in the distance. 

Hougomont and La Haie Sainte continued to burn, making, 
one in the east and the other in the west, two great flames, to 
which was attached, like a necklace of rubies with two carbuncles 
at its extremities, the cordon of bivouac fires of the English, 
extending in an immense semicircle over the hills of the horizon. 

We have spoken of the catastrophe of the road to Oham. 
The heart almost sinks with terror at the thought of such a 
death for so many brave men. 

If anything is frightful, if there be a reality which surpasses 
dreams, it is this: to live, to see the sun, to be in full possession 

34 2 Les Miserables 

of manly vigour, to have health and joy, to laugh sturdily, to 
rush towards a glory which dazzlingly invites you on, to feel a 
very pleasure in respiration, to feel your heart beat, to feel 
yourself a reasoning being, to speak, to think, to hope, to love; 
to have mother, to have wife, to have children, to have sunlight, 
and suddenly, in a moment, in less than a minute, to feel your- 
self buried in an abyss, to fall, to roll, to crush, to be crushed, 
to see the grain, the flowers, the leaves, the branches, to be able 
to seize upon nothing, to feel your sword useless, men under 
you, horses over you, to strike about you in vain, your bones 
broken by some kick in the darkness, to feel a heel which makes 
your eyes leap from their sockets, to grind the horseshoes with 
rage in your teeth, to stifle, to howl, to twist, to be under all 
this, and to say: just now I was a living man! 

There, where this terrible death-rattle had been, all was now 
silent. The cut of the sunken road was filled with horses and 
riders inextricably heaped together. Terrible entanglement. 
There were no longer slopes to the road; dead bodies filled it 
even with the plain, and came to the edge of the banks like a 
well-measured bushel of barley. A mass of dead above, a river 
of blood below such was this road on the evening of the i8th 
of June, 1815. The blood ran even to the Nivelles road, and 
oozed through in a large pool in front of the abattis of trees, 
which barred that road, at a spot which is still shown. It was, 
it will be remembered, at the opposite point, towards the road 
from Genappe, that the burying of the cuirassiers took place. 
The thickness of the mass of bodies was proportioned to the 
depth of the hollow road. Towards the middle, at a spot where 
it became shallower, over which Delord's division had passed, 
this bed of death became thinner. 

The night prowler which we have just introduced to the 
reader went in this direction. He ferreted through this 
immense grave. He looked about. He passed an inde- 
scribably hideous review of the dead. He walked with his feet 
in blood. 

Suddenly he stopped. 

A few steps before him, in the sunken road, at a point where 
the mound of corpses ended, from under this mass of men and 
horses appeared an open hand, lighted by the moon. 

This hand had something upon a finger which sparkled; it 
was a gold ring. 

The man stooped down, remained a moment, and when he 
rose again there was no ring upon that hand. 

Cosette 343 

He did not rise up precisely; he remained in a sinister and 
startled attitude, turning his back to the pile of dead, scruti- 
nising the horizon, on his knees, all the front of his body being 
supported on his two fore-fingers, his head raised just enough to 
peep above the edge of the hollow road. The four paws of the 
jackal are adapted to certain actions. 

Then, deciding upon his course, he arose. 

At this moment he experienced a shock. He felt that he was 
held from behind. 

He turned ; it was the open hand, which had closed, seizing 
the lappel of his capote. 

An honest man would have been frightened. This man began 
to laugh. 

" Oh," said he, " it's only the dead man. I like a ghost 
better than a gendarme." 

However, the hand relaxed and let go its hold. Strength is 
soon exhausted in the tomb. 

"Ah ha! " returned the prowler, " is this dead man alive? 
Let us see." 

He bent over again, rummaged among the heap, removed 
whatever impeded him, seized the hand, laid hold of the arm, 
disengaged the head, drew out the body, and some moments 
after dragged into the shadow of the hollow road an inanimate 
man, at least one who was senseless. It was a cuirassier, an 
officer; an officer, also, of some rank; a great gold epaulet 
protruded from beneath his cuirass, but he had no casque. A 
furious sabre cut had disfigured his face, where nothing but 
blood was to be seen. It did not seem, however, that he had 
any limbs broken; and by some happy chance, if the word is 
possible here, the bodies were arched above him in such a way 
as to prevent his being crushed. His eyes were closed. 

He had on his cuirass the silver cross of the Legion of Honour. 

The prowler tore off this cross, which disappeared in one of 
the gulfs which he had under his capote. 

After which he felt the officer's fob, found a watch there, and 
took it. Then he rummaged in his vest and found a purse, 
which he pocketed. 

When he had reached this phase of the succour he was lending 
the dying man, the officer opened his eyes. 

" Thanks," said he feebly. 

The rough movements of the man handling him, the coolness 
of the night, and breathing the fresh air freely, had roused him 
from his lethargy. 

344 Les Miserables 

The prowler answered not. He raised his head. The sound 
of a footstep could be heard on the plain ; probably it was some 
patrol who was approaching. 

The officer murmured, for there were still signs of suffering in 
his voice : 

" Who has gained the battle? " 

" The English," answered the prowler. 

The officer replied : 

" Search my pockets. You will there find a purse and a 
watch. Take them." 

This had already been done. 

The prowler made a pretence of executing the command, and 

" There is nothing there." 

"I have been robbed," replied the officer; "I am sorry. 
They would have been yours." 

The step of the patrol became more and more distinct. 

" Somebody is coming," said the prowler, making a move- 
ment as if he would go. 

The officer, raising himself up painfully upon one arm, held 
him back. 

" You have saved my life. Who are you ? " 

The prowler answered quick and low: 

" I belong, like yourself, to the French army. I must go. If 
I am taken I shall be shot. I have saved your life. Help your- 
self now." 

' What is your grade? " 
' Sergeant." 

' What is your name ? " 
' Thenardier." 

' I shall not forget that name," said the officer. " And you, 
remember mine. My name is Pontmercy." 



JEAN VALJEAN has been retaken. 

We shall be pardoned for passing rapidly over the painful 
details. We shall merely reproduce a couple of items published 
in the newspapers of that day, some few months after the 
remarkable events that occurred at M sur M . 

The articles referred to are somewhat laconic. It will be 
remembered that the Gazette des Tribunaux had not yet been 

We copy the first from the Drapeati Blanc. It is dated the 
25th of July, 1823: 

" A district of the Pas-de-Calais has just been the scene of 
an extraordinary occurrence. A stranger in that department, 
known as Monsieur Madeleine, had, within a few years past, 
restored, by means of certain new processes, the manufacture 
of jet and black glass ware a former local branch of industry. 
He had made his own fortune by it, and, in fact, that of the 
entire district. In acknowledgment of his services he had 
been appointed mayor. The police has discovered that Monsieur 
Madeleine was none other than an escaped convict, condemned 
in 1796 for robbery, and named Jean Valjean. This Jean 
Valjean has been sent back to the galleys. It appears that 
previous to his arrest, he succeeded in withdrawing from 
Laffitte's a sum amounting to more than half a million which 
he had deposited there, and which it is said, by the way, he had 
very legitimately realised in his business. Since his return to 
the galleys at Toulon, it has been impossible to discover where 
Jean Valjean concealed this money." 

The second article, which enters a little more into detail, is 
taken from the Journal de Paris of the same date: 

" An old convict, named Jean Valjean, has recently been 
brought before the Var Assizes, under circumstances calculated 
to attract attention. This villain had succeeded in eluding the 
vigilance of the police; he had changed his name, and had even 



Les Miserables 

been adroit enough to procure the appointment of mayor in one 
of our small towns in the North. He had established in this 
town a very considerable business, but was, at length, unmasked 
and arrested, thanks to the indefatigable zeal of the public 
authorities. He kept, as his mistress, a prostitute, who died of 
the shock at the moment of his arrest. This wretch, who is 
endowed with herculean strength, managed to escape, but, three 
or four days afterwards, the police retook him, in Paris, just as he 
was getting into one of the small vehicles that ply between the 
capital and the village of Montfermeil (Seine-et-Oise). It is 
said that he had availed himself of the interval of these three or 
four days of freedom, to withdraw a considerable sum deposited 
by him with one of our principal bankers. The amount is 
estimated at six or seven hundred thousand francs. According 
to the minutes of the case, he has concealed it in some place 
known to himself alone, and it has been impossible to seize it; 
however that may be, the said Jean Valjean has been brought 
before the assizes of the Department of the Var under indict- 
ment for an assault and robbery on the high road committed vi 
et armis some eight years ago on the person of one of those 
honest lads who, as the patriarch of Ferney has written in 
immortal verse, 

. . . De Savoie nrrivent tous les ans, 
Et dont la main legerement essuie 
Ces longs canaux engorges par la suie. 1 

This bandit attempted no defence. It was proven by the able 
and eloquent representative of the crown that the robbery was 
shared in by others, and that Jean Valjean formed one of a band 
of robbers in the South. Consequently, Jean Valjean, being 
found guilty, was condemned to death. The criminal refused 
to appeal to the higher courts, and the king, in his inexhaustible 
clemency, deigned to commute his sentence to that of hard 
labour in prison for life. Jean Valjean was immediately for- 
warded to the galleys at Toulon." 

It will not be forgotten that Jean Valjean had at M sur 

M certain religious habits. Some of the newspapers and, 

among them, the Constitutionnel, held up this commutation as 
a triumph of the clerical party. 

Jean Valjean changed his number at the galleys. He became 

While we are about it, let us remark, in dismissing the subject, 

1 ... Who come from Savoy every year, 

And whose hand deftly wipes out 

Those long channels choked up with soot. 

Cosette 347 

that with M. Madeleine, the prosperity of M sur M 

disappeared ; all that he had foreseen, in that night of fever and 
irresolution, was realised; he gone, the soul was gone. After 
his downfall, there was at M sur M that egotistic dis- 
tribution of what is left when great men have fallen that fatal 
carving up of prosperous enterprises which is daily going on, 
out of sight, in human society, and which history has noted but 
once, and then, because it took place after the death of Alexander. 
Generals crown themselves kings; the foremen, in this case, 
assumed the position of manufacturers. Jealous rivalries arose. 
The spacious workshops of M. Madeleine were closed ; the build- 
ing fell into ruin, the workmen dispersed. Some left the country, 
others abandoned the business. From that time forth, every- 
thing was done on a small, instead of on the large scale, and for 
gain rather than for good. No longer any centre; competition 
on all sides, and on all sides venom. M. Madeleine had ruled 
and directed everything. He fallen, every man strove for 
himself; the spirit of strife succeeded to the spirit of organisa- 
tion, bitterness to cordiality, hatred of each against each instead 
of the good will of the founder towards all ; the threads knitted 
by M. Madeleine became entangled and were broken ; the work- 
manship was debased, the manufacturers were degraded, con- 
fidence was killed; customers diminished, there were fewer 
orders, wages decreased, the shops became idle, bankruptcy 
followed. And, then, there was nothing left for the poor. All 
that was there disappeared. 

Even the state noticed that some one had been crushed, in 
some direction. Less than four years after the decree of the 
court of assizes establishing the identity of M. Madeleine and 
Jean Valjean, for the benefit of the galleys, the expense of 

collecting the taxes was doubled in the district of M sur 

M ; and M. de Villele remarked the fact, on the floor of the 

Assembly, in the month of February, 1827. 



BEFORE proceeding further, it will not be amiss to relate, in 
some detail, a singular incident which took place, about the 
same time, at Montfermeil, and which, perhaps, does not fall in 
badly with certain conjectures of the public authorities. 


Les Miserables 

There exists, in the neighbourhood of Montfermeil, a very 
ancient superstition, all the more rare and precious from the 
fact that a popular superstition in the vicinity of Paris is like an 
aloe tree in Siberia. Now, we are of those who respect anything 
in the way of a rarity. Here, then, is the superstition of Mont- 
fermeil: they believe, there, that the Evil One has, from time 
immemorial, chosen the forest as the hiding-place for his 
treasure. The good wives of the vicinity affirm that it is no 
unusual thing to meet, at sundown, in the secluded portions of 
the woods, a black-looking man, resembling a waggoner or wood- 
cutter, shod in wooden shoes, clad in breeches and sack of 
coarse linen, and recognisable from the circumstances that, 
instead of a cap or hat, he has two immense horns upon his head. 
That certainly ought to render him recognisable. This man is 
constantly occupied in digging holes. There .are three ways of 
dealing when you meet him. 

The first mode is to approach the man and speak to him. 
Then you perceive that the man is nothing but a peasant, that 
he looks black because it is twilight, that he is digging no hole 
whatever, but is merely cutting grass for his cows; and that 
what had been taken for horns are nothing but his pitchfork 
which he carries on his back, and the prongs of which, thanks to 
the night perspective, seemed to rise from his head. You go 
home and die within a week. The second method is to watch 
him, to wait until he has dug the hole, closed it up, and gone 
away; then, to run quickly to the spot, to open it and get the 
" treasure " which the black-looking man has, of course, buried 
there. In this case, you die within a month. The third 
manner is not to speak to the dark man nor even to look at him, 
and to run away as fast as you can. You die within the year. 

As all three of these methods have their drawbacks, the 
second, which, at least, offers some advantages, among others 
that of possessing a treasure, though it be but for a month, is the 
one generally adopted. Daring fellows, who never neglect a 
good chance, have, therefore, many times, it is asseverated, 
reopened the holes thus dug by the black-looking man, and tried 
to rob the Devil. It would appear, however, that it is not a very 
good business at least, if we are to believe tradition, and, more 
especially, two enigmatic lines in barbarous Latin left us, on 
this subject, by a roguish Norman monk, named Tryphon, who 
dabbled in the black art. This Tryphon was buried in the 
abbey of St. Georges de Bocherville, near Rouen, and toads are 
produced from his grave. 

Cosette 349 

Well then, the treasure-seeker makes tremendous efforts, for 
the holes referred to are dug, generally, very deep; he sweats, 
he digs, he works away all night, for this is done in the night- 
time ; he gets his clothes wet, he consumes his candle, he hacks 
and breaks his pickaxe, and when, at length, he has reached the 
bottom of the hole, when he has put his hand upon the " treasure/' 
what does he find ? What is this treasure of the Evil One ? A 
penny sometimes a crown ; a stone, a skeleton, a bleeding corpse, 
sometimes a spectre twice folded like a sheet of paper in a port- 
folio, sometimes nothing. This is what seems to be held forth 
to the indiscreet and prying by the lines of Tryphon: 

Fodit, et in fossa thesauros condit opaca, 

As, nummos, lapides, cadaver, simulacra, nihilque. 

It appears that, in our time, they find in addition sometimes 
a powder-horn with bullets, sometimes an old pack of brown 
and greasy cards which have evidently been used by the Devil. 
Tryphon makes no mention "of these articles, as Tryphon lived 
in the twelfth century, and it does not appear that the Evil One 
had wit enough to invent powder in advance of Roger Bacon or 
cards before Charles VI. 

Moreover, whoever plays with these cards is sure to lose all 
he has, and as to the powder in the flask, it has the peculiarity 
of bursting your gun in your face. 

Now, very shortly after the time when the authorities took it 
into their heads that the liberated convict Jean Valjean had, 
during his escape of a few days' duration, been prowling about 
Montfermeil, it was remarked, in that village, that a certain old 
road-labourer named Boulatruelle had " a fancy " for the woods. 
People in the neighbourhood claimed to know that Boulatruelle 
had been in the galleys; he was under police surveillance, and, 
as he could find no work anywhere, the government employed 
him at half wages as a mender on the cross-road from Gagny to 

This Boulatruelle was a man in bad odour with the people of 
the neighbourhood; he was too respectful, too humble, prompt 
to doff his cap to everybody ; he always trembled and smiled in 
the presence of the gendarmes, was probably in secret connection 
with robber-bands, said the gossips, and suspected of lying-in 
wait in the hedge corners, at night-fall. He had nothing in his 
favour except that he was a drunkard. 

What had been observed was this : 

For some time past, Boulatruelle had left off his work at stone- 
breaking and keeping the road in order, very aarly, and had 

35 Les Miserables 

gone into the woods with his pick. He would be met towards 
evening in the remotest glades and the wildest thickets, having 
the appearance of a person looking for something and, some- 
times, digging holes. The good wives who passed that way 
took him at first for Beelzebub, then they recognised Boula- 
truelle, and were by no means reassured. These chance meetings 
seemed greatly to disconcert Boulatruelle. It was clear that he 
was trying to conceal himself, and that there was something 
mysterious in his operations. 

The village gossips said : " It's plain that the Devil has been 
about, Boulatruelle has seen him and is looking for his treasure. 
The truth is, he is just the fellow to rob the Evil One." The 
Voltairians added: " Will Boulatruelle catch the Devil or the 
Devil catch Boulatruelle?" The old women crossed them- 
selves very often. 

However, the visits of Boulatruelle to the woods ceased and 
he recommenced his regular labour on the road. People began 
to talk about something else. 

A few, however, retained their curiosity, thinking that there 
might be involved in the affair, not the fabulous treasures of 
the legend, but some goodly matter more substantial than the 
Devil's bank-bills, and that Boulatruelle had half spied out the 
secret. The worst puzzled of all were the schoolmaster and the 
tavern-keeper, Thenardier, who was everybody's friend, and 
who had not disdained to strike up an intimacy with even 

" He has been in the galleys," said Thenardier. " Good 
Lord ! nobody knows who is there or who may be there ! " 

One evening, the schoolmaster remarked that, in old times, 
the authorities would have inquired into what Boulatruelle was 
about in the woods, and that he would have been compelled to 
speak even put to torture, if needs were and that Boula- 
truelle would not have held out, had he been put to the question 
by water, for example. 

" Let us put him to the wine question," said Th^nardier. 

So they made up a party and plied the old roadsman with 
drink. Boulatruelle drank enormously, but said little. He 
combined with admirable art and in masterly proportions the 
thirst of a guzzler with the discretion of a judge. However, by 
dint of returning to the charge and by putting together and 
twisting the obscure expressions that he did let fall, Thenardier 
and the schoolmaster made out, as they thought, the following: 

One morning about daybreak as he was going to his work, 

Cosette 351 

Boulatruelle had been surprised at seeing under a bush in a 
corner of the wood, a pickaxe and spade, as one would say, 
hidden there. However, he supposed that they were the pick 
and spade of old Six-Fours, the water-carrier, and thought no 
more about it. But, on the evening of the same day, he had 
seen, without being seen himself, for he was hidden behind a 
large tree, " a person who did not belong at all to that region, 
and whom he, Boulatruelle, knew very well " or, as Thenardier 
translated it, " an old comrade at the galleys " turn off from the 
high road towards the thickest part of the wood. Boulatruelle 
obstinately refused to tell the stranger's name. This person 
carried a package, something square, like a large box or a small 
trunk. Boulatruelle was surprised. Seven or eight minutes, 
however, elapsed before it occurred' to him to follow the 
" person." But he was too late. The person was already in 
the thick woods, night had come on, and Boulatruelle did not 
succeed in overtaking him. Thereupon he made up his mind to 
watch the outskirts of the wood. " There was a moon." Two 
or three hours later, Boulatruelle saw this person come forth 
again from the wood, this time carrying now not the little trunk 
but a pick and a spade. Boulatruelle let the person pass un- 
molested, because, as he thought to himself, the other was three 
times as strong as he, was armed with a pickaxe, and would 
probably murder him, on recognising his countenance and see- 
ing that he, in turn, was recognised. Touching display of feel- 
ing in two old companions unexpectedly meeting! But the 
pick and the spade were a ray of light to Boulatruelle; he 
hastened to the bushes, in the morning, and found neither one 
nor the other. He thence concluded that this person, on enter- 
ing the wood, had dug a hole with his pick, had buried the 
chest, and had, then, filled up the hole with his spade. Now, 
as the chest was too small to contain a corpse, it must contain 
money; hence his continued searches. Boulatruelle had ex- 
plored, sounded, and ransacked the whole forest, and had 
rummaged every spot where the earth seemed to have been 
freshly disturbed. But all in vain. 

He had turned up nothing. Nobody thought any more 
about it, at Montfermeil, excepting a few good gossips, who 
said: "Be sure the road-labourer of Gagny didn't make all 
that fuss for nothing : the devil was certainly there." 

352 Les Miserables 



TOWARDS the end of October, in that same year, 1823, the in- 
habitants of Toulon saw coming back into their port, in conse- 
quence of heavy weather, and in order to repair some damages, 
the ship Orion, which was at a later period employed at Brest as 
a vessel of instruction, and which then formed a part of the 
Mediterranean squadron. This ship, crippled as she was, for 
the sea had used her roughly, produced some sensation on 
entering the roadstead. ' She flew I forget what pennant, but it 
entitled her to a regular salute of eleven guns, which she re- 
turned shot for shot : in all twenty -two. It has been estimated 
that in salutes, royal and military compliments, exchanges of 
courteous hubbub, signals of etiquette, roadstead and citadel 
formalities, risings and settings of the sun saluted daily by all 
fortresses and all vessels of war, the opening and closing of 
gates, etc., etc., the civilised world, in every part of the globe, 
fires off, daily, one hundred and fifty thousand useless cannon 
shots. At six francs per shot, that would amount to nine 
hundred thousand francs per day, or three hundred millions 
per year, blown off in smoke. This is only an item. In the 
meanwhile, the poor are dying with hunger. 

The year 1823 was what the Restoration has called the " time 
of the Spanish War." 

That war comprised many events in one, and no small number 
of singular things. It was a great family affair of the Bourbons; 
the French branch aiding and protecting the branch at Madrid, 
that is to say, performing the duties of seniority; an apparent 
return to our national traditions, mixed up with subserviency, 
and cringing to the cabinets of the North; the Due d'Angou- 
leme, dubbed by the liberal journals the hero of Andujar, re- 
pressing, with a triumphal attitude rather contradicted by his 
peaceful mien the old and very real terrorism of the Holy 
Office, in conflict with the chimerical terrorism of the Liberals; 
sans-culottes revived, to the great alarm of all the old dowagers, 
under the name of descamisados ; monarchists striving to 
impede progress, which they styled anarchy ; the theories of '89 
rudely interrupted in their undermining advances; a halt from 
all Europe, intimated to the French idea of revolution, making 

Cosette 353 

its tour of the globe; side by side with the son of France, 
general-in-chief, the Prince de Carignan, afterwards Charles 
Albert, enlisting in this crusade of the kings against the peoples, 
as a volunteer, with a grenadier's epaulets of red wool; the 
soldiers of the empire again betaking themselves to the field, 
but after eight years of rest, grown old, gloomy, and under the 
white cockade ; the tricolour displayed abroad by a heroic hand- 
ful of Frenchmen, as the white flag had been at Coblentz, thirty 
years before; monks mingling with our troopers; the spirit of 
liberty and of innovation reduced by bayonets; principles 
struck dumb by cannon-shot; France undoing by her arms 
what she had done with her mind; to cap the climax, the 
leaders on the other side sold, their troops irresolute; cities 
besieged by millions of money; no military dangers, and yet 
some explosions possible, as is the case in every mine entered 
and taken by surprise; but little blood shed, but little honour 
gained; shame for a few, glory for none. Such was this war, 
brought about by princes who descended from Louis XIV., and 
carried on by generals who sprang from Napoleon. It had this 
wretched fate, that it recalled neither the image of a great war 
nor of a great policy. 

A few feats of arms were serious affairs; the taking of Tro- 
cadero, among others, was a handsome military exploit; but, 
taken all in all, we repeat, the trumpets of this war emit a 
cracked and feeble sound, the general appearance of it was 
suspicious, and history approves the unwillingness of France to 
father so false a triumph. It seemed clear that certain Spanish 
officers intrusted with the duty of resistance, yielded too easily, 
the idea of bribery was suggested by a contemplation of the 
victory; it appeared as if the generals rather than the battles 
had been won, and the victorious soldier returned humiliated. 
It was war grown petty indeed, where you could read Bank of 
France on the folds of the flag. 

Soldiers of the war of 1808, under whose feet Saragossa had so 
terribly crumbled, knit their brows at this ready surrender of 
fastnesses and citadels, and regretted Palafox. It is the mood 
of France to prefer to have before her a Rostopchine rather 
than a Ballesteros. 

In a still graver point of view, which it is well to urge, too, 
this war, which broke the military spirit of France, fired the 
democratic spirit with indignation. It was a scheme of subj uga- 
tion. In this campaign, the object held out to the French 
soldier, son of democracy, was the conquest of a yoke for the 

354 Les Miserables 

neck of another. Hideous contradiction. France exists to 
arouse the soul of the peoples, not to stifle it. Since 1792, all 
the revolutions of Europe have been but the French Revolu- 
tion: liberty radiates on every side from France. That is a 
fact as clear as noonday. Blind is he who does not see it! 
Bonaparte has said it. 

The war of 1823, an outrage on the generous Spanish nation, 
was, at the same time, an outrage on the French Revolution. 
This monstrous deed of violence France committed, but by 
compulsion; for, aside from wars of liberation, all that armies 
do they do by compulsion. The words passive obedience tell 
the tale. An army is a wondrous masterpiece of combination, 
in which might is the result of an enormous sum-total of utter 
weakness. Thus only can we explain a war waged by humanity 
against humanity, in despite of humanity. 

As to the Bourbons, the war of 1823 was fatal to them. They 
took it for a success. They did not see what danger there is in 
attempting to kill an idea by a military watchword. In their 
simplicity, they blundered to the extent of introducing into their 
establishment, as an element of strength, the immense enfeeble- 
ment of a crime. The spirit of ambuscade and lying in wait 
entered into their policy. The germ of 1830 was in 1823. The 
Spanish campaign became in their councils an argument on 
behalf of violent measures and intrigues in favour of divine 
right. France having restored el rey neto in Spain, could cer- 
tainly restore the absolute monarchy at home. They fell into 
the tremendous error of mistaking the obedience of the soldier 
for the acquiescence of the nation. That fond delusion ruins 
thrones. It will not do to fall asleep either in the shade of a 
upas tree or in the shadow of an army. 

But let us return to the ship Orion. 

During the operations of the army of the Prince, command- 
ing-in-chief, a squadron cruised in the Mediterranean. We 
have said that the Orion belonged to that squadron, and that 
she had been driven back by stress of weather to the port of 

The presence of a vessel of war in port has about it a certain 
influence which attracts and engages the multitude. It is 
because it is something grand, and the multitude like what is 

A ship-of-the-line is one of the most magnificent struggles of 
human genius with the forces of nature. 

A vessel of the line is composed of the heaviest, and at the 

Cosette 355 

same time the lightest materials, because she has to contend, 
at one and the same time, with the three forms of matter, the 
solid, the liquid, and the fluid. She has eleven claws of iron to 
grasp the rock at the bottom of the sea, and more wings and 
feelers than the butterfly to catch the breezes in the clouds. 
Her breath goes forth through her hundred and twenty guns as 
through enormous trumpets, and haughtily answers the thunder- 
bolt. Ocean strives to lead her astray in the frightful sameness 
of his billows, but the ship has her compass, which is her soul, 
always counselling her and always pointing towards the north. 
In dark nights, her lanterns take the place of the stars. Thus, 
then, to oppose the wind, she has her ropes and canvas ; against 
the water her timber; against the rock her iron, her copper, 
and her lead; against the darkness, light; against immensity, 

Whoever would form an idea of all these gigantic proportions, 
the aggregate of which constitutes a ship-of-the-line, has but 
to pass under one of the covered ship-houses, six stories high, 
at Brest or Toulon. The vessels in process of construction are 
seen there under glass cases, so to speak. That colossal beam 
is a yard ; that huge column of timber lying on the ground and 
reaching out of sight is the mainmast. Taking it from its root 
in the hold to its summit in the clouds, it is sixty fathoms long, 
and is three feet in diameter at its base. The English main- 
mast rises two hundred and seventeen feet above the water-line. 
The navy of our fathers used cables, ours uses chains. Now 
the mere coil of chains of a hundred-gun ship is four feet high, 
twenty feet broad, and eight feet thick. And for the construc- 
tion of this vessel, how much timber is required? It is a 
floating forest. 

And yet, be it remembered, that we are here speaking only of 
the war vessel of some forty years ago, the mere sailing craft ; 
steam, then in its infancy, has, since that time, added new 
wonders to this prodigy called a man-of-war. At the present 
day, for example, the mixed vessel, the screw-propeller, is a 
surprising piece of mechanism moved by a spread of canvas 
measuring four thousand square yards of surface, and by a 
steam-engine of twenty-five hundred horse power. 

Without referring to these fresher marvels, the old-fashioned 
ship of Christopher Columbus and of De Ruyter is one of the 
noblest works of man. It is exhaustless in force as the breath 
of infinitude; it gathers up the wind in its canvas, it is firmly 
fixed in the immense chaos of the waves, it floats and it reigns. 

35 6 Les Miserables 

But a moment comes, when the white squall breaks that 
sixty-foot yard like a straw; and when the wind flaw bends 
that four hundred foot mast like a reed; when that anchor, 
weighing its tons upon tons, is twisted in the maw of the wave 
like the angler's hook in the jaws of a pike; when those monster 
guns utter plaintive and futile roarings which the tempest 
whirls away into space and night, when all this might and all 
this majesty are engulfed in a superior might and majesty. 

Whenever immense strength is put forth only to end in 
immense weakness, it makes men meditate. Hence it is that, 
in seaports, the curious, without themselves knowing exactly 
why, throng about these wonderful instruments of war and 

Every day, then, from morning till night, the quays, the 
wharves, and the piers of the port of Toulon were covered with 
a throng of saunterers and idlers, whose occupation consisted in 
gazing at the Orion. 

The Orion was a ship that had long been in bad condition. 
During her previous voyages, thick layers of shellfish had 
gathered on her bottom to such an extent as to seriously impede 
her progress ; she had been put on the dry-dock the year before, 
to be scraped, and then she had gone to sea again. But this 
scraping had injured her fastening. 

In the latitude of the Balearic Isles, her planking had loosened 
and opened, and as there was in those days no copper sheathing, 
the ship had leaked. A fierce equinoctial came on, which had 
stove in the larboard bows and a porthole, and damaged the 
fore-chain-wales. In consequence of these injuries, the Orion 
had put back to Toulon. 

She was moored near the arsenal. She was in commission, 
and they were repairing her. The hull had not been injured on 
the starboard side, but a few planks had been taken off here 
and there, according to custom, to admit the air to the frame- 

One morning, the throng which was gazing at her witnessed 
an accident. 

The crew were engaged in furling sail. The topman, whose 
duty it was to take in the starboard upper corner of the main 
top-sail, lost his balance. He was seen tottering; the dense 
throng assembled on the wharf of the arsenal uttered a cry, 
the man's head overbalanced his body, and he whirled over the 
yard, his arms outstretched towards the deep ; as he went over, 
he grasped the man-ropes, first with one hand, and then with 

Cosette 357 

other, and hung suspended in that manner. The sea lay 
far below him at a giddy depth. The shock of his fall had 
given to the man-ropes a violent swinging motion, and the poor 
fellow hung dangling to and fro at the end of this line, like 
a stone in a sling. 

To go to his aid was to run a frightful risk. None of the 
crew, who were all fishermen of the coast recently taken into 
service, dared attempt it. In the meantime, the poor topman 
was becoming exhausted; his agony could not be seen in his 
countenance, but his increasing weakness could be detected in 
the movements of all his limbs. His arms twisted about in 
horrible contortions. Every attempt he made to reascend only 
increased the oscillations of the man-ropes. He did not cry 
out, for fear of losing his strength. All were now looking for- 
ward to the moment when he should let go of the rope, and, at 
instants, all turned their heads away that they might not see 
him fall. There are moments when a rope's end, a pole, the 
branch of a tree, is life itself, and it is a frightful thing to see 
a living being lose his hold upon it, and fall like a ripe fruit. 

Suddenly, a man was discovered clambering up the rigging 
with the agility of a wildcat. This man was clad in red it 
was a convict; he wore a green cap it was a convict for 
life. As he reached the round top, a gust of wind blew off his 
cap and revealed a head entirely white : it was not a young 

In fact, one of the convicts employed on board in some 
prison task, had, at the first alarm, run to the officer of the 
watch, and, amid the confusion and hesitation of the crew, 
while | all the sailors trembled and shrank back, had asked 
permission to save the topman's life at the risk of his own. A 
sign of assent being given, with one blow of a hammer he broke 
the chain riveted to the iron ring at his ankle, then took a rope 
in his hand, and flung himself into the shrouds. Nobody, at 
the moment, noticed with what ease the chain was broken. It 
was only some time afterwards that anybody remembered it. 

In a twinkling he was upon the yard. He paused a^ few 
seconds, and seemed to measure it with his glance. . Those 
seconds, during which the wind swayed the sailor to and fro at 
the end of the rope, seemed ages to the lookers-on. At length, 
the convict raised his eyes to heaven, and took a step forward. 
The crowd drew a long' breath. He was seen to run along the 
yard. On reaching its extreme tip, he fastened one end of the 
rope he had with him, and let the other hang at full length. 


Les Miserables 

Thereupon, he began to let himself down by his hands along 
this rope, and then there was an inexpressible sensation of 
terror; instead of one man, two were seen dangling at that 
giddy height. 

You would have said it was a spider seizing a fly; only, in 
this case, the spider was bringing life, and not death. Ten 
thousand eyes were fixed upon the group. Not a cry; not a 
word was uttered; the same emotion contracted every brow. 
Every man held his breath, as if afraid to add the least whisper 
to the wind which was swaying the two unfortunate men. 

However, the convict had, at length, managed to make his 
way down to the seaman. It was time ; one minute more, and 
the man, exhausted and despairing, would have fallen into the 
deep. The convict firmly secured him to the rope to which he 
clung with one hand while he worked with the other. Finally, 
he was seen reascending to the yard, and hauling the sailor after 
him; he supported him there, for an instant, to let him recover 
his strength, and then, lifting him in his arms, carried him, as 
he walked along the yard, to the crosstrees, and from there 
to the round-top, where he left him in the hands of his mess- 

Then the tlirong applauded; old galley sergeants wept, 
women hugged each other on the wharves, and, on all sides, 
voices were heard exclaiming, with a sort of tenderly subdued 
enthusiasm: " This man must be pardoned! " 

He, however, had made it a point of duty to descend again 
immediately, and go back to his work. In order to arrive more 
quickly, he slid down the rigging, and started to run along a 
lower yard. All eyes were following him. There was a certain 
moment when every one felt alarmed; whether it was that he 
felt fatigued, or because his head swam, people thought they 
saw him hesitate and stagger. Suddenly, the throng uttered a 
thrilling outcry : the convict had fallen into the sea. 

The fall was perilous. The frigate Algesiras was moored close 
to the Orion, and the poor convict had plunged between the 
two ships. It was feared that he would be drawn under one or 
the other. Four men sprang, at once, into a boat. The people 
cheered them on, and anxiety again took possession of all minds. 
The man had not again risen to the surface. He had disap- 
peared in the sea, without making even a ripple, as though he 
had fallen into a cask of oil. They sounded and dragged the 
place. It was in vain. The search was continued until night, 
but not even the body was found. 

Cosette 359 

The next morning, the Toulon Journal published the following 
lines: " November 17, 1823. Yesterday, a convict at work on 
board of the Orion, on his return from rescuing a sailor, fell 
into the sea, and was drowned. His body was not recovered. 
It is presumed that it has been caught under the piles at the 
pier-head of the arsenal. This man was registered by the 
number 9430, and his name was Jean Valjean." 



MONTFERMEIL is situated between Livry and Chelles, upon the 
southern slope of the high plateau which separates the Ourcq 
from the Marne. At present, it is a considerable town, adorned 
all the year round with stuccoed villas, and, on Sundays, with 
citizens in full blossom. In 1823, there were at Montfermeil 
neither so many white houses nor so many comfortable citizens ; 
it was nothing but a village in the woods. You would find, 
indeed, here and there a few country seats of the last century, 
recognisable by their grand appearance, their balconies of 
twisted iron, and those long windows the little panes of which 
show all sorts of different greens upon the white of the closed 
shutters. But Montfermeil was none the less a village. Retired 
dry-goods merchants and amateur villagers had not yet dis- 
covered it. It was a peaceful and charming spot, and not upon 
the road to any place; the inhabitants cheaply enjoyed that 
rural life which is so luxuriant and so easy of enjoyment. But 
water was scarce there on account of the height of the plateau. 

They had to go a considerable distance for it. The end of 
the village towards Gagny drew its water from the magnificent 
ponds in the forest on that side ; the other end, which surrounds 
the church and which is towards Chelles, found drinking-water 
only at a little spring on the side of the hill, near the road to 
Chelles, about fifteen minutes' walk from Montfermeil. 

It was therefore a serious matter for each household to obtain 
its supply of water. The great houses, the aristocracy, the 
Thenardier tavern included, paid a penny a bucket-full to an 
old man who made it his business, and whose income from the 
Montfermeil water-works was about eight sous per day; but 
this man worked only till seven o'clock in summer and five in 
the winter, and when night had come on, and the first-floor 


Cosette 361 

shutters were closed, whoever had no drinking-water went after 
it, or went without it. 

This was the terror of the poor being whom the reader has 
not perhaps forgotten little Cosette. It will be remembered 
that Cosette was useful to the Thenardiers in two ways, they 
got pay from the mother and work from the child. Thus when 
the mother ceased entirely to pay, we have seen why, in the 
preceding chapters, the Thenardiers kept Cosette. She saved 
them a servant. In that capacity she ran for water when it 
was wanted. So the child, always horrified at the idea of going 
to the spring at night, took good care that water should never 
be wanting at the house. 

Christmas in the year 1823 was particularly brilliant at Mont- 
fermeil. The early part of the winter had been mild; so far 
there had been neither frost nor snow. Some jugglers from 
Paris had obtained permission from the mayor to set up their 
stalls in the main street of the village, and a company of pedlars 
had, under the same licence, put up their booths in the square 
before the church and even in the lane du Boulanger, upon 
which, as the reader perhaps remembers, the Thenardier chop- 
house was situated. This filled up the taverns and pot-houses, 
and 'gave to this little quiet place a noisy and joyous appearance. 
We ought also to say, to be a faithful historian, that, among 
the curiosities displayed in the square, there was a menagerie in 
which frightful clowns, clad in rags and come nobody knows 
whence, were exhibiting in 1823 to the peasants of Montfermeil 
one of those horrid Brazilian vultures, a specimen of which our 
Museum Royal did not obtain until 1845, and the eye of which 
is a tri-coloured cockade. Naturalists call this bird, I believe, 
Caracara Polyborus; it belongs to the order of the Apicidae 
and the family of the vultures. Some good old retired Bona- 
partist soldiers in the village went to see the bird as a matter 
of faith. The jugglers pronounced the tri-coloured cockade a 
unique phenomenon, made expressly by God for their menagerie. 

On that Christmas evening, several men, waggoners and 
pedlars, were seated at table and drinking around four or five 
candles in the low hall of the Thenardier tavern. This room 
resembled all bar-rooms; tables, pewter-mugs, bottles, drinkers, 
smokers; little light, and much noise. The date, 1823, was, 
however, indicated by the two things then in vogue with the 
middle classes, which were on the table, a kaleidoscope and a 
fluted tin lamp. Thenardier, the wife, was looking to the 
supper, which was cooking before a bright blazing fire; the 

3 62 

Les Misrables 

husband, Thenardier, was drinking with his guests and talking 

Aside from the political discussions, the principal subjects 
of which were the Spanish war and the Due d'Angouleme, 
local interludes were heard amid the hubbub, like these, for 
instance : 

" Down around Nanterre and Suresnes wine is turning out 
well. Where they expected ten casks they are getting twelve. 
That is getting a good yield of juice out of the press." " But 
the grapes can't be ripe ? " " Oh, in these parts there is no 
need of harvesting ripe ; the wine is fat enough by spring." "It 
is all light wine then ? " " There is a good deal lighter wines 
than they make hereabouts. You have to harvest green." 


Or, indeed, a miller might be bawling: 

" Are we responsible for what there is in the bags ? We find 
a heap of little seeds there, that we can't amuse ourselves by 
picking out, and of course we have got to let 'em go through 
the stones; there's darnel, there's fennel, there's cockles, there's 
vetch, there's hemp, there's fox-tail, and a lot of other weeds, 
not counting the stones that there is in some wheat, especially 
Breton wheat. I don't like to grind Breton wheat, no more 
than carpenters like to saw boards with nails in 'em. Just 
think of the dirt that all that makes in the till. And then they 
complain of the flour. It's their own fault. We ain't to blame 
for the flour." 

Between two windows, a mower seated at a table with a 
farmer, who was making a bargain for a piece of work to be 
done the next season, was saying : 

" There is no harm in the grass having the dew on. It cuts 
better. The dew is a good thing. It is all the same, that are 
grass o' yours is young, and pretty hard to cut. You see it is 
so green; you see it bends under the scythe." 


Cosette was at her usual place, seated on the cross-piece of 
the kitchen table, near the fireplace ; she was clad in rags ; her 
bare feet were in wooden shoes, and by the light of the fire she 
was knitting woollen stockings for the little Thenardiers. A 
young kitten was playing under the chairs. In a neighbouring 
room the fresh voices of two children were heard laughing and 
prattling ; it was Eponine and Azelma. 

In the chimney-corner, a cow-hide hung upon a nail. 

At intervals, the cry of a very young child, which was some- 

Cosette 363 

where in the house, was heard above the noise of the bar-room. 
This was a little boy which the woman had had some winters 
before " She didn't know why," she said: "it was the cold 
weather," and which was a little more than three years old. 
The mother had nursed him, but did not love him. When the 
hungry clamour of the brat became too much to bear: " Your 
boy is squalling," said Thenardier, " why don't you go and see 
what he wants?" "Bah!" answered the mother; "I am 
sick of him." And the poor little fellow continued to cry in 
the darkness. 



THE Thenardiers have hitherto been seen in this book in profile 
only; the time has come to turn this couple about and look at 
them on all sides. 

Thenardier has just passed his fiftieth year; Madame Thenar- 
dier had reached her fortieth, which is the fiftieth for woman ; 
so that there was an equilibrium of age between the husband 
and wife. 

The reader has perhaps, since her first appearance, preserved 
some remembrance of this huge Thenardiess ; for such we shall 
call the female of this species, large, blond, red, fat, brawny, 
square, enormous, and agile; she belonged, as we have said, to 
the race of those colossal wild women who posturise at fairs 
with paving-stones hung in their hair. She did everything 
about the house, the chamber-work, the washing, the cooking, 
anything she pleased, and played the deuce generally. Cosette 
was her only servant; a mouse in the service of an elephant. 
Everything trembled at the sound of her voice; windows and 
furniture as well as people. Her broad face, covered with 
freckles, had the appearance of a skimmer. She had beard. 
She was the ideal of a butcher's boy dressed in petticoats. She 
swore splendidly; she prided herself on being able to crack a 
nut with her fist. Apart from the novels she had read, which 
at times gave you an odd glimpse of the affected lady under the 
ogress, the idea of calling her a woman never would have 
occurred to anybody. This Thenardiess seemed like a cross 
between a wench and a fishwoman. If you heard her speak, 
you would say it is a gendarme; if you saw her drink, you 
would say it is a cartman; if you saw her handle Cosette, you 

3 6 4 

Les Miserables 

would say it is the hangman. When at rest, a tooth protruded 
from her mouth. 

The other Thenardier was a little man, meagre, pale, angular, 
bony, and lean, who appeared to be sick, and whose health was 
excellent; here his knavery began. He smiled habitually as a 
matter of business, and tried to be polite to everybody, even to 
the beggar to whom he refused a penny. He had the look of a 
weazel, and the mien of a man of letters. He had a strong 
resemblance to the portraits of the Abb6 Delille. He affected 
drinking with waggoners. Nobody ever saw him drunk. He 
smoked a large pipe. He wore a blouse, and under it an old 
black coat. He made pretensions to literature and materialism. 
There were names which he often pronounced in support of 
anything whatever that he might say. Voltaire, Raynal, Parny, 
and, oddly enough, St. Augustine. He professed to have " a 
system." For the rest, a great swindler. A fellowsopher. 
There is such a variety. It will be remembered, that he pre- 
tended to have been in the service; he related with some pomp 
that at Waterloo, being sergeant in a Sixth or Ninth Light 
something, he alone, against a squadron of Hussars of Death, 
had covered with his body, and saved amid a shower of grape, 
" a general dangerously wounded." Hence the flaming picture 
on his sign, and the name of his inn, which was spoken of in 
that region as the " tavern of the sergeant of Waterloo." He 
was liberal, classical, and a Bonapartist. He had subscribed 
for the Champ d'Asile. It was said in the village that he had 
studied for the priesthood. 

We believe that he had only studied in Holland to be an 
innkeeper. This whelp of the composite order was, according 
to all probability, some Fleming of Lille in Flanders, a French- 
man in Paris, a Belgian in Brussels, conveniently on the fence 
between the two frontiers. We understand his prowess at 
Waterloo. As we have seen, he exaggerated it a little. Ebb 
and flow, wandering, adventure, was his element; a violated 
conscience is followed by a loose life ; and without doubt, at the 
stormy epoch of the i8th of June, 1815, Th6nardier belonged to 
that species of marauding sutlers of whom we have spoken, 
scouring the country, robbing here and selling there, and travel- 
ling in family style, man, woman, and children, in some rickety 
carry-all, in the wake of marching troops, with the instinct to 
attach himself always to the victorious army. This campaign 
over, having, as he said, some " quibus," he had opened a 
" chop-house " at Montfermeil. 

Cosette 365 

This " quibus," composed of purses and watches/ gold rings 
and silver crosses, gathered at the harvest time in the furrows 
sown with corpses, did not form a great total, and had not 
lasted this sutler, now become a tavern-keeper, very long. 

Thenardier had that indescribable stiffness of gesture which, 
with an oath, reminds you of the barracks, and, with a sign 
of the cross, of the seminary. He was a fine talker. He was 
fond of being thought learned. Nevertheless, the schoolmaster 
remarked that he made mistakes in pronunciation. He made 
out travellers' bills in a superior style, but practised eyes some- 
times found them faulty in orthography. Thenardier was sly, 
greedy, lounging, and clever. He did not disdain servant girls, 
consequently his wife had no more of them. This giantess was 
jealous. It seemed to her that this little, lean, and yellow man 
must be the object of universal desire. 

Thenardier, above all a man of astuteness and poise, was a 
rascal of the subdued order. This is the worst species; there 
is hypocrisy in it. 

Not that Thenardier was not on occasion capable of anger, 
quite as much so as his wife; but that was very rare, and at 
such times, as if he were at war with the whole human race, as 
if he had in him a deep furnace of hatred, as if he were of those 
who are perpetually avenging themselves, who accuse everybody 
about them of the evils that befall them, and are always ready 
to throw on the first comer, as legitimate grievance, the sum- 
total of the deceptions, failures, and calamities of their life as 
all this leaven worked in him, and boiled up into his mouth and 
eyes, he was frightful. Woe to him who came within reach of 
his fury, then! 

Besides all his other qualities, Thenardier was attentive 
penetrating, silent or talkative as occasion required, and always 
with great intelligence. He had somewhat the look of sailors 
accustomed to squinting the eye in looking through spy-glasses. 
Thenardier was a statesman. 

Everv new-comer who entered the chop-house said, on seeing 
the Thenardiess: There is the master of the house. 
error. She was not even the mistress. The husband was both 
master and mistress. She performed, he created. He directed 
everything by a sort of invisible and continuous magnetic ad 
A word sufficed, sometimes a sign: the mastodon obeyed. 
Thenardier was to her, without her being really aware of it a 
sort of being apart and sovereign. She had the virtues of her 
order of creation; never would she have differed in any detail 


Les Miserables 

with " Monsieur Thenardier " nor impossible supposition 
would she have publicly quarrelled with her husband, on any 
matter whatever. Never had she committed " before com- 
pany " that fault of which women are so often guilty, and which 
is called in parliamentary language: discovering t the crown. 
Although their accord had no other result than evil, there was 
food for contemplation in the submission of the The"nardiess to 
her husband. This bustling mountain of flesh moved under 
the little finger of this frail despot. It was, viewed from its 
dwarfed and grotesque side, this great universal fact: the 
homage of matter to spirit; for certain deformities have their 
origin in the depths even of eternal beauty. There was some- 
what of the unknown in Thenardier; hence the absolute empire 
of this man over this woman. At times, she looked upon him 
as upon a lighted candle; at others, she felt him like a claw. 

This woman was a formidable creation, who loved nothing 
but her children, and feared nothing but her husband. She 
was a mother because she was a mammal. Her maternal feelings 
stopped with her girls, and, as we shall see, did not extend to 
boys. The man had but one thought to get rich. 

He did not succeed. His great talents had no adequate 
opportunity. Thenardier at Montfermeil was ruining himself, 
if ruin is possible at zero. In Switzerland, or in the Pyrenees, 
this penniless rogue would have become a millionaire. But 
where fate places the innkeeper he must browse. 

It is understood that the word innkeeper is employed here in 
a restricted sense, and does not extend to an entire class. 

In this same year, 1823, Thenardier owed about fifteen 
hundred francs, of pressing debts, which rendered him moody. 

However obstinately unjust destiny was to him, Thenardier 
was one of those men who best understood, to the greatest 
depth and in the most modern style, that which is a virtue 
among the barbarous, and a subject of merchandise among the 
civilised hospitality. He was, besides, an admirable poacher, 
and was counted an excellent shot. He had a certain cool and 
quiet laugh, which was particularly dangerous. 

His theories of innkeeping sometimes sprang from him by 
flashes. He had certain professional aphorisms which he incul- 
cated in the mind of his wife. " The duty of the innkeeper," 
said he to her one day, emphatically, and in a low voice, " is 
to sell to the first comer, food, rest, light, fire, dirty linen, 
servants, fleas, and smiles; to stop travellers, empty small 
purses, and honestly lighten large ones; to receive families who 

Cosette 367 

are travelling, with respect: scrape the man, pluck the woman, 
and pick the child; to charge for the open window, the closed 
window, the chimney corner, the sofa, the chair, the stool, the 
bench, the feather bed, the mattress, and the straw bed; to 
know how much the mirror is worn, and to tax that; and, by 
the five hundred thousand devils, to make the traveller pay for 
everything, even to the flies that his dog eats ! " 

This man and this woman were cunning and rage married 
a hideous and terrible pair. 

While the husband calculated and schemed, the Thenardiess 
thought not of absent creditors, took no care either for yesterday 
or the morrow, and lived passionately in the present moment. 

Such were these two beings. Cosette was between them, 
undergoing their double pressure, like a creature who is at the 
same time being bruised by a millstone, and lacerated with 
pincers. The man and the woman had each a different way. 
Cosette was beaten unmercifully; that came from the woman. 
She went barefoot in winter; that came from the man. 

Cosette ran up stairs and down stairs; washed, brushed, 
scrubbed, swept, ran, tired herself, got out of breath, lifted 
heavy things, and, puny as she was, did the rough work. No 
pity ; a ferocious mistress, a malignant master. The Th6nardier 
chop-house was like a snare, in which Cosette had been caught, 
and was trembling. The ideal of oppression was realised by 
this dismal servitude. It was something like a fly serving 

The poor child was passive and silent. 

When they find themselves in such condition at the dawn of 
existence, so young, so feeble, among men, what passes in these 
souls fresh from God ! 



FOUR new guests had just come in. 

Cosette was musing sadly; for, though she was only eight 
years old, she had already suffered so much that she mused 
with the mournful air of an old woman. 

She had a black eye from a blow of the Thenardiess's fist, 
which made the Thenardiess say from time to time, " How 
ugly she is with her patch on her eye." 

Cosette was then thinking that it was evening, late in the 

368 Les Miserables 

evening, that the bowls and pitchers in the rooms of the travellers 
who had arrived must be filled immediately, and that there 
was no more water in the cistern. 

One thing comforted her a little; they did not drink much 
water in the Thenardier tavern. There were plenty of people 
there who were thirsty; but it was that kind of thirst which 
reaches rather towards the jug than the pitcher. Had anybody 
asked for a glass of water among these glasses of wine, he would 
have seemed a savage to all those men. However, there was 
an instant when the child trembled; the Thenardiess raised the 
cover of a kettle which was boiling on the range, then took a 
glass and hastily approached the cistern. She turned the 
faucet; the child had raised her head and followed all her move- 
ments. A thin stream of water ran from the faucet, and filled 
the glass half full. 

" Here," said she, " there is no more water! " Then she was 
silent for a moment. The child held her breath. 

"Pshaw!" continued the Thenardiess, examining the half- 
filled glass, " there is enough of it, such as it is." 

Cosette resumed her work, but for more than a quarter of an 
hour she felt her heart leaping into her throat like a great ball. 

She counted the minutes as they thus rolled away, and 
eagerly wished it were morning. 

From time to time, one of the drinkers would look out into 
the street and exclaim: " It is as black as an oven! " or, " It 
would take a cat to go along the street without a lantern to- 
night!" And Cosette shuddered. 

All at once, one of the pedlars who lodged in the tavern came 
in, and said in a harsh voice: 

" You have not watered my horse." 

" Yes, we have, sure," said the Thenardiess. 

" I tell you no, ma'am," replied the pedlar. 

Cosette came out from under the table. 

"Oh, yes, monsieur!" said she, "the horse did drink; he 
drank in the bucket, the bucket full, and 'twas me that carried 
it to him, and I talked to him." 

This was not true. Cosette lied. 

" Here is a girl as big as my fist, who can tell a lie as big as 
a house," exclaimed the pedlar. " I tell you that he has not 
had any water, little wench! He has a way of blowing when 
he has not had any water, that I know well enough." 

Cosette persisted, and added in a voice stifled with anguish, 
and which could hardly be heard: 

Cosette 369 

" But he did drink a good deal." 

" Come," continued the pedlar, in a passion, " that is enough ; 
give my horse some water, and say no more about it." 

Cosette went back under the table. 

" Well, of course that is right," said the The'nardiess; " if 
the beast has not had any water, she must have some." 

Then looking about her: 

" Well, what has become of that girl? " 

She stooped down and discovered Cosette crouched at the 
other end of the table, almost under the feet of the drinkers. 

" Ara't you coming ? " cried the Thenardiess. 

Cosette came out of the kind of hole where she had hidden. 
The Thenardiess continued: 

"Mademoiselle Dog-without-a-name, go and carry some 
drink to this horse." 

" But, ma'am," said Cosette feebly, " there is no water." 

The Thenardiess threw the street door wide open. 

" Well, go after some ! " 

Cosette hung her head, and went for an empty bucket that 
was by the chimney corner. 

The bucket was larger than she, and the child could have 
sat down in it comfortably. 

The Thenardiess went back to her range, and tasted what 
was in the kettle with a wooden spoon, grumbling the while. 

" There is some at the spring. She is the worst girl that ever 
was. I think 'twould have been better if I'd left out the 

Then she fumbled in a drawer where there were some pennies, 
pepper, and garlic. 

" Here, Mamselle Toad," added she, " get a big loaf at the 
baker's, as you come back. Here is fifteen sous." 

Cosette had a little pocket in the side of her apron ; she took 
the piece without saying a word, and put it in that pocket. 

Then she remained motionless, bucket in hand, the open door 
before her. She seemed to be waiting for somebody to come 
to her aid. 

" Get along ! " cried the Thenardiess. 

Cosette went out. The door closed. 

370 Les Miserables 



THE row of booths extended along the street from the church, 
the reader will remember, as far as the Thenardier tavern. 
These booths, on account of the approaching passage of the 
citizens on their way to the midnight mass, were all illuminated 
with candles, burning in paper lanterns, which, as the school-- 
master of Montfermeil, who was at that moment seated at one 
of Thenardier's tables, said, produced a magical effect. In 
retaliation, not a star was to be seen in the sky. 

The last of these stalls, set up exactly opposite Thenardier's 
door, was a toy-shop, all glittering with trinkets, glass beads, 
and things magnificent in tin. In the first rank, and in front, 
the merchant had placed, upon a bed of white napkins, a great 
doll nearly two feet high dressed in a robe of pink-crape with 
golden wheat-ears on its head, and which had real hair and 
enamel eyes. The whole day, this marvel had been displayed 
to the bewilderment of the passers under ten years of age, but 
there had not been found in Montfermeil a mother rich enough, 
or prodigal enough to give it to her child. Eponine and Azelma 
had passed hours in contemplating it, and Cosette herself, 
furtively, it is true, had dared to look at it. 

At the moment when Cosette went out, bucket in hand, all 
gloomy and overwhelmed as she was, she could not help raising 
her eyes towards this wonderful doll, towards the lady, as she 
called it. The poor child stopped petrified. She had not seen 
this doll so near before. 

This whole booth seemed a palace to her; this doll was not a 
doll, it was a vision. It was joy, splendour, riches, happiness, 
and it appeared in a sort of chimerical radiance to this unfor- 
tunate little being, buried so deeply in a cold and dismal misery. 
Cosette was measuring with the sad and simple sagacity of 
childhood the abyss which separated her from that doll. She 
was saying to herself that one must be a queen, or at least a 
princess, to have a " thing " like that. She gazed upon this 
beautiful pink dress, this beautiful smooth hair, and she was 
thinking, " How happy must be that doll ! " Her eye could 
not turn away from this fantastic booth. The longer she looked, 
the more she was dazzled. She thought she saw paradise. 
There were other dolls behind the large one that appeared to 

Cosette 371 

her to be fairies and genii. The merchant walking to and fro 
in the back part of his stall, suggested the Eternal Father. 

In this adoration, she forgot everything, even the errand on 
which she had been sent. Suddenly, the harsh voice of the 
Thenardiess called her back to the reality : " How, jade, haven't 
you gone yet? Hold on; I am coming for you! I'd like to 
know what she's doing there ? Little monster, be off ! " 

The Thenardiess had glanced into the street, and perceived 
Cosette in ecstasy. 

Cosette fled with her bucket, running as fast as she could. 


As the Thenardier tavern was in that part of the village which 
is near the church, Cosette had to go to the spring in the woods 
towards Chelles to draw water. 

She looked no more at the displays in the booths, so long as 
she was in the lane Boulanger; and in the vicinity of the church, 
the illuminated stalls lighted the way, but soon the last gleam 
from the last stall disappeared. The poor child found herself 
in darkness. She became buried in it. Only, as she became 
the prey of a certain sensation, she shook the handle of the 
bucket as much as she could on her way. That made a noise, 
which kept her company. 

The further she went, the thicker became the darkness. 
There was no longer anybody in the street. However, she met 
a woman who turned around on seeing her pass, and remained 
motionless, muttering between her teeth; " Where in the world 
can that child be going? Is it a phantom child? " Then the 
woman recognised Cosette. " Oh," said she, " it is the lark ! " 

Cosette thus passed through the labyrinth of crooked and 
deserted streets, which terminates the village of Montfermeil 
towards Chelles. As long as she had houses, or even walls, on 
the sides of the road, she went on boldly enough. From time 
to time, she saw the light of a candle through the cracks of a 
shutter; it was light and life to her; there were people there; 
that kept up her courage. However, as she advanced, her 
speed slackened as if mechanically. When she had passed the 
corner of the last house, Cosette stopped. To go beyond the 
last booth had been difficult; to go further than the last house 
became impossible. She put the bucket on the ground, buried 

37 2 Les Miserables 

her hands in her hair, and began to scratch her head slowly, a 
motion peculiar to terrified and hesitating children. It was 
Montfermeil no longer, it was the open country; dark and 
deserted space was before her. She looked with despair into 
this darkness where nobody was, where there were beasts, where 
there were perhaps ghosts. She looked intensely, and she 
heard the animals walking in the grass, and she distinctly saw 
the ghosts moving in the trees. Then she seized her bucket 
again; fear gave her boldness: " Pshaw," said she, " I will tell 
her there isn't any more water ! " And she resolutely went 
back into Montfermeil. 

She had scarcely gone a hundred steps when she stopped 
again, and began to scratch her head. Now, it was the Thenar- 
diess that appeared to her; the hideous Thenardiess, with her 
hyena mouth, and wrath flashing from her eyes. The child 
cast a pitiful glance before her and behind her. What could 
she do? What would become of her? Where should she go? 
Before her, the spectre of the Thenardiess; behind her, all the 
phantoms of night and of the forest. It was at the Thenardiess 
that she recoiled. She took the road to the spring again, and 
began to run. She ran out of the village; she ran into the 
woods, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. She did not stop 
running until out of breath, and even then she staggered on. 
She went right on, desperate. 

Even while running, she wanted to cry. 

The nocturnal tremulousness of the forest wrapped her about 

She thought no more ; she saw nothing more. The immensity 
of night confronted this little creature. On one side, the 
infinite shadow; on the other, an atom. 

It was only seven or eight minutes' walk from the edge of the 
woods to the spring. Cosette knew the road, from travelling it 
several times a day. Strange thing, she did not lose her way. 
A remnant of instinct guided her blindly. But she neither 
turned her eyes to the right nor to the left, for fear of seeing 
things in the trees and in the bushes. Thus she arrived at 
the spring. 

It was a small natural basin, made by the water in the loamy 
soil, about two feet deep, surrounded with moss, and with that 
long figured grass called Henry Fourth's collars, and paved with 
a few large stones. A brook escaped from it with a gentle, 
tranquil murmur. 

Cosette did not take time to breathe. It was very dark, but 

Cosette 373 

she was accustomed to come to this fountain. She felt with 
her left hand in the darkness for a young oak which bent over 
the spring and usually served her as a support, found a branch, 
swung herself from it, bent down and plunged the bucket in 
the water. She was for a moment so excited that her strength 
was tripled. When she was thus bent over, she did not notice 
that the pocket of her apron emptied itself into the spring. The 
fifteen-sous piece fell into the water. Cosette neither saw it 
nor heard it fall. She drew out the bucket almost full and set 
it on the grass. 

This done, she perceived that her strength was exhausted. 

She was anxious to start at once; but the effort of filling the 

' bucket had been so great that it was impossible for her to take 

a step. She was compelled to sit down. She fell upon the 

grass and remained in a crouching posture. 

She closed her eyes, then she opened them, without knowing 
why, without the power of doing otherwise. At her side, the 
water shaken in the bucket made circles that resembled serpents 
of white fire. 

Above her head, the sky was covered with vast black clouds 
which were like sheets of smoke. The tragic mask of night 
seemed to bend vaguely over this child. 

Jupiter was setting in the depths of the horizon. 

The child looked with a startled eye upon that great star 
which she did not know and which made her afraid. The 
planet, in fact, was at that moment very near the horizon and 
was crossing a dense bed of mist which gave it a horrid redness. 
The mist, gloomily empurpled, magnified the star. One would 
have called it a luminous wound. 

A cold wind blew from the plain. The woods were dark, 
without any rustling of leaves, without any of those vague and 
fresh coruscations of summer. Great branches drew themselves 
up fearfully. Mean and shapeless bushes whistled in the glades. 
The tall grass wriggled under the north wind like eels. The 
brambles twisted about like long arms seeking to seize their 
prey in their claws. Some dry weeds, driven by the wind, 
passed rapidly by, and appeared to flee with dismay before 
something that was following. The prospect was dismal. 

Darkness makes the brain giddy. Man needs light. Who- 
ever plunges into the opposite of day feels his heart chilled. 
When the eye sees blackness, the mind sees trouble. In an 
eclipse, in night, in the sooty darkness, there is anxiety even 
to the strongest. Nobody walks alone at night in the forest 

374 Les Miserables 

without trembling. Darkness and trees, two formidable depths 
a reality of chimeras appears in the indistinct distance. The 
Inconceivable outlines itself a few steps from you with a spectral 
clearness. You see floating in space or in your brain something 
strangely vague and unseizable as the dreams of sleeping flowers. 
There are fierce phantoms in the horizon. You breathe in the 
odours of the great black void. You are afraid, and are tempted 
to look behind you. The hollowness of night, the haggardness 
of all things, the silent profiles that fade away as you advance, 
the obscure dishevelments, angry clumps, livid pools, the 
gloomy reflected in the funereal, the sepulchral immensity of 
silence, the possible unknown beings, the swaying of mysterious 
branches, the frightful twistings of the trees, long spires of 
shivering grass against all this you have no defence. There 
is no bravery which does not shudder and feel the nearness of 
anguish. You feel something hideous, as if the soul were amal- 
gamating with the shadow. This penetration of the darkness 
is inexpressibly dismal for a child. 

Forests are apocalypses; and the beating of the wings of a 
little soul makes an agonising sound under their monstrous 

Without being conscious of what she was experiencing, 
Cosette felt that she was seized by this black enormity of nature. 
It was not merely terror that held her, but something more 
terrible even than terror. She shuddered. Words fail to 
express the peculiar strangeness of that shudder which chilled 
her through and through. Her eye had become wild. She 
felt that perhaps she would be compelled to return there at the 
same hour the next night. 

Then, by a sort of instinct, to get out of this singular state, 
which she did not understand, but which terrified her, she began 
to count aloud one, two, three, four, up to ten, and when she 
had finished, she began again. This restored her to a real per- 
ception of things about her. Her hands, which she had wet in 
drawing the water, felt cold. She arose. Her fear had returned, 
a natural and insurmountable fear. She had only one thought, 
to fly; to fly with all her might, across woods, across fields, to 
houses, to windows, to lighted candles. Her eyes fell upon the 
bucket that was before her. Such was the dread with which 
the Thenardiess inspired her, that she did not dare to go without 
the bucket of water. She grasped the handle with both hands. 
She could hardly lift the bucket. 

She went a dozen steps in this manner, but the bucket was 

Cosette 375 

full, it was heavy, she was compelled to rest it on the ground. 
She breathed an instant, then grasped the handle again, and 
walked on, this time a little longer. But she had to stop again. 
After resting a few seconds, she started on. She walked bending 
forward, her head down, like an old woman: the weight of the 
bucket strained and stiffened her thin arms. The iron handle 
was numbing and freezing her little wet hands; from time to 
time she had to stop, and every time she stopped, the cold 
water that splashed from the bucket fell upon her naked knees. 
This took place in the depth of a wood, at night, in the winter, 
far from all human sight; it was a child of eight years; there 
was none but God at that moment who saw this sad thing. 

And undoubtedly her mother, alas ! 

For there are tilings which open the eyes of the dead in their 

She breathed with a kind of mournful rattle; sobs choked 
her, but she did not dare to weep, so fearful was she of the 
Thenardiess, even at a distance. She always imagined that 
the Thenardiess was near. 

However she could not make much headway in this manner, 
and was getting along very slowly. She tried hard to shorten 
her resting spells, and to walk as far as possible between them. 
She remembered with anguish that it would take her more than 
an hour to return to Montfermeil thus, and that the Thenardiess 
would beat her. This anguish added to her dismay at being 
alone in the woods at night. She was worn out with fatigue, 
and was not yet out of the forest. Arriving near an old chest 
nut tree which she knew, she made a last halt, longer than the 
others, to get well rested ; then she gathered all her strength, 
took up the bucket again, and began to walk on courageously. 
Meanwhile the poor little despairing thing could not help 
crying: "Oh! my God! my God!" 

At that moment she felt all at once that the weight of the 
bucket was gone. A hand, which seemed enormous to her, had 
just caught the handle, and was carrying it easily, she raised 
her head. A large dark form, straight and erect, was walking 
beside her in the gloom. It was a man who had come up 
behind her, and whom she had not heard. This man, without 
saving a word, had grasped the handle of the bucket she was 

There are instincts for all the crises ot Me. 
The child was not afraid. 

376 Les Miserables 



IN the afternoon of that same Christmas-day, 1823,' a man 
walked a long time in the most deserted portion of the Boulevard 
de 1'Hopital at Paris. This man had the appearance of some 
one who was looking for lodgings, and seemed to stop by pre- 
ference before the most modest houses of this dilapidated part 
of the Faubourg Saint Marceau. 

We shall see further on that this man did in fact hire a room 
in this isolated quarter. 

This man., in his dress as in his whole person, realised the type 
of what might be called the mendicant of good society extreme 
misery being combined with extreme neatness. It is a rare 
coincidence which inspires intelligent hearts with this double 
respect that we feel for him who is very poor and for him who 
is very worthy. He wore a round hat, very old and carefully 
brushed, a long coat, completely threadbare, of coarse yellow 
cloth, a colour which was in nowise extraordinary at that epoch, 
a large waistcoat with pockets of antique style, black trousers 
worn grey at the knees, black woollen stockings, and thick shoes 
with copper buckles. One would have called him an old pre- 
ceptor of a good family, returned from the emigration. From 
his hair, which was entirely white, from his wrinkled brow, 
from his livid lips, from his face in which everything breathed 
exhaustion and weariness of life, one would have supposed him 
considerably over sixty. From his firm though slow step, and 
the singular vigour impressed upon all his motions, one would 
hardly have thought him fifty. The wrinkles on his forehead 
were well disposed, and would have prepossessed in his favour 
any one who observed him with attention. His lip contracted 
with a strange expression, which seemed severe and yet which 
was humble. There was in the depths of his eye an inde- 
scribably mournful serenity. He carried in his left hand a 
small package tied in a handkerchief, with his right he leaned 
upon a sort of staff cut from a hedge. This staff had been 
finished with some care, and did not look very badly; the knots 
were smoothed down, and a coral head had been formed with 
red wax; it was a cudgel, and it seemed a cane. 

There are few people on that boulevard, especially in winter. 

Cosette 377 

This man appeared to avoid them rather than seek them, but 
without affectation. 

At that epoch the king, Louis XVIII., went almost every day 
to Choisy Le Roy. It was one of his favourite rides. About 
two o'clock, almost invariably, the carriage and the royal 
cavalcade were seen to pass at full speed through the Boulevard 
de I'Hopital. 

This supplied the place of watch and clock to the poor women 
of the quarter, who would say: " It is two o'clock, there he is 
going back to the Tuileries." 

And some ran, and others fell into line; for when a king 
passes by, there is always a tumult. Moreover, the appearance 
and disappearance of Louis XVIII. produced a certain sensa- 
tion [in the streets of Paris. It was rapid, but majestic. This 
impotent king had a taste for fast driving; not being able to 
walk, he wished to run; this cripple would have gladly been 
drawn by the lightning. He passed by, peaceful and severe, in 
the midst of naked sabres. His massive coach, all gilded, with 
great lily branches painted on the panels, rolled noisily along. 
One hardly had time to catch a glance of it. In the back 
corner on the right could be seen, upon cushions covered with 
white satin, a broad face, firm and red, a forehead freshly 
powdered a la bird of paradise, a proud eye, stern and keen, a 
well-read smile, two large epaulets of bullion waving over a 
citizen's dress, the Golden Fleece, the cross of Saint Louis, the- 
cross of the Legion of Honour, the silver badge of the Holy 
Spirit, a big belly, and a large blue ribbon ; that was the king.. 
Outside of Paris, he held his hat with white feathers upon his 
knees, which were inclosed in high English gaiters; when he 
re-entered the city, he placed his hat upon his head, bowing but. 
little. He looked coldly upon the people, who returned his- 
look. When he appeared for the first time in the Quartier 
Saint Marceau, all he succeeded in eliciting was this saying 
of a resident to his comrade: " It's that big fellow who is the- 

This unfailing passage of the king at the same hour was then > 
the daily event of the Boulevard de I'Hopital. 

The promenader in the yellow coat evidently did not belong 
to the quarter, and probably not to Paris, for he was ignorant 
of this circumstance. When at two o'clock the royal carriage, 
surrounded by a squadron of silver-laced body-guard, turned 
into the boulevard, after passing La Salpetriere, he appeared 
surprised, and almost frightened. There was no one else in the -. 

378 Les Miserables 

cross alley, and he retired hastily behind a corner of the side 
wall, but this did not prevent the Duke d'Havre seeing him. 
The Duke d'Havre, as captain of the guards in waiting that day, 
was seated in the carriage opposite the king. He said to his 
majesty: " There is a man who has a bad look." Some police- 
men, who were clearing the passage for the king, also noticed 
him; one of them was ordered to follow him. But the man 
plunged into the little solitary streets of the Faubourg, and as 
night was coming on the officer lost his track, as is established 
by a report addressed on the same evening to the Comte Angles, 
Minister of State, Prefect of Police. 

When the man in the yellow coat had thrown the officer off 
his track, he turned about, not without looking back many 
times to make sure that he was not followed. At a quarter past 
four, that is to say, after dark, he passed in front of the theatre 
of the Porte Saint Martin where the play that day was The Two 
Convicts. The poster, lit up by the reflection from the theatre, 
seemed to strike him, for, although he was walking rapidly, he 
stopped to read it. A moment after, he was in the cul-de-sac 
de la Planchette, and entered the Pewter platter, which was then 
the office of the Lagny stage. This stage started at half past 
four. The horses were harnessed, and the travellers, who had 
been called by the driver hastily, were climbing the high iron 
steps of the vehicle. 

The man asked: 

' Have you a seat? " 

' Only one, beside me, on the box," said the driver. 

' I will take it." 

' Get up then." 

Before starting, however, the driver cast a glance at the poor 
apparel of the traveller, and at the smallness of his bundle, and 
took his pay. 

" Are you going through to Lagny? " asked the driver. 

" Yes," said the man. 

The traveller paid through to Lagny. 

They started off. When they had passed the barriere, the 
driver tried to start a conversation, but the traveller answered 
only in monosyllables. The driver concluded to whistle, and 
swear at his horses. 

The driver wrapped himself up in his cloak. It was cold. 
The man did not appear to notice it. In this way they passed 
through Gournay and Neuilly sur Marne. About six o'clock in 
the evening they were at Chelles. The driver stopped to let 

Cosette 370 

his horses breathe, in front of the waggoners' tavern established 
in the old buildings of the royal abbey. 

" I will get down here," said the man. 

He took his bundle and stick, and jumped down from the 

A moment aftenvards he had disappeared. 

He did not go into the tavern. 

When, a few minutes afterwards, the stage started off for 
Lagny, it did not overtake him in the main street of Chelles. 

The driver turned to the inside passengers : 

" There," said he, " is a man who does not belong here, for I 
don't know him. He has an appearance of not having a sou; 
however, he don't stick about money; he pays to Lagny, and 
he only goes to Chelles. It is night, all the houses are shut, he 
don't go to the tavern, and we don't overtake him. He must, 
then, have sunk into the ground." 

The man had not sunk into the ground, but he had hurried 
rapidly in the darkness along the main street of Chelles ; then 
he had turned to the left, before reaching the church, into the 
cross road leading to Montfermeil, like one who knew the 
country and had been that way before. 

He followed this road rapidly. At the spot where it intersects 
the old road bordered with trees that goes from Gagny to Lagny, 
he heard footsteps approaching. He concealed himself hastily 
in a ditch, and waited there till the people who were passing 
were a good distance off. The precaution was indeed almost 
superfluous, for, as we have already said, it was a very dark 
December night. There were scarcely two or three stars to be 
seen in the sky. 

It is at this point that the ascent of the hill begins. The 
man did not return to the Montfermeil road; he turned to the 
right, across the fields, and gained the woods with rapid strides. 

When he reached the wood, he slackened his pace, and began 
to look carefully at all the trees, pausing at every step, as if he 
were seeking and following a mysterious route known only to 
himself. There was a moment when he appeared to lose him- 
self, and when he stopped, undecided. Finally he arrived, by 
continual groping, at a glade where there was a heap of large 
whitish stones. He made his way quickly towards these stones, 
and examined them with attention in the dusk of the night, as 
if he were passing them in review. A large tree, covered with 
these excrescences which are the warts of vegetation, was a few 
steps from the heap of stones. He went to this tree, and passed 

3 8o 

Les Miserablcs 

his hand over the bark of the trunk, as if he were seeking to 
recognise and to count all the warts. 

Opposite this tree, which was an ash, there was a chestnut 
tree wounded in the bark, which had been staunched with a 
bandage of zinc nailed on. He rose on tip-toe and touched 
that band of zinc. 

Then he stamped for some time upon the ground in the space 
between the tree and the stones, like one who would be sure 
that the earth had not been freshly stirred. 

This done, he took his course and resumed his walk through 
the woods. 

This was the man who had fallen in with Cosette. 

As he made his way through the copse in the direction of 
Montfermeil, he had perceived that little shadow, struggling 
along with a groan, setting her burden on the ground, then taking 
it up and going on again. He had approached her and seen 
that it was a very young child carrying an enormous bucket of 
water. Then he had gone to the child, and silently taken hold 
of the handle of the bucket. 



COSETTE, we have said, was not afraid. 

The man spoke to her. His voice was serious, and was 
almost a whisper. 

" My child, that is very heavy for you which you are carrying 

Cosette raised her head and answered : 

" Yes, monsieur." 

" Give it to me," the man continued, " I will carry it for you." 

Cosette let go of the bucket. The man walked along with 

"It is very heavy, indeed," said he to himself. Then he 
added : 

" Little girl, how old are you ? " 

" Eight years, monsieur." 

" And have you come far in this way ? " 

" From the spring in the woods." 

" And are you going far ? " 

Cosette -gj 

' A good quarter of an hour from here " 

abr^tly : n ^^ * ^^ with Ut ****** ^n he said 
" You have no mother then ? " 
" I don't know," answered the child 
Before the man had had time to say a word, she added- 

Ven^' 1 ^ A the -st have one. Por my 
And after a silence, she added : 
" I believe I never had any." 
The man stopped, put the bucket on the ground stoooed 

Sol? t P ^ , h K ^^ Up n the Child ' s shoul ders, 
effort to look at her and see her face in the darkness 


" What is your name? " said the man 

" Cosette." 

It seemed as if the man had an electric shock. He looked at 

A moment after, he asked: 
" Little girl, where do you live? " 
' At Montfermeil, if you know it." 
" Is it there that we are going? " 
" Yes, monsieur." 
He made another pause, then he began- 


at a 

" Madame Thenardier. 
The man resumed with a tone of voice which he tried to 

nevertheless ^ 

" What does she do, your Madame Thenardier? " 
tavern " * my mistreSS/> said the chijd - " s 'he keeps the 

" The tavern," said the man. Well, I am going there to 
lodge to-night. Show me the way." 

" We are going there," said the child. 

The man walked very fast. Cosette followed him without 
difficulty She felt fatigue no more. From time to time she 
raised her eyes towards this man with a sort of tranquillity and 
inexpressible confidence. She had never been taught to turn 
towards Providence and to pray. However, she felt in her 

382 Les Miserables 

bosom something that resembled hope and joy, and which 
rose towards heaven. 

A few minutes passed. The man spoke : 

" Is there no servant at Madame Thenardier's ? " 

" No, monsieur." 

" Are you alone? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

There was another interval of silence. Cosette raised her 
voice : 

" That is, there are two little girls." 

"What little girls?" 

" Ponine and Zelma." 

The child simplified in this way the romantic names dear to 
the mother. 

" What are Ponine and Zelma? " 

" They are Madame Thenardier's young ladies, you might 
say her daughters." 

" And what do they do? " 

" Oh ! " said the child, " they have beautiful dolls, things 
which there's gold in; they are full of business. They play, 
they amuse themselves." 

"All day long?" 

" Yes, monsieur." 

" And you?" 

"Me! I work." 

"All day long?" 

The child raised her large eyes in which there was a tear, 
which could not be seen in the darkness, and answered softly : 

" Yes, monsieur." 

She continued after an interval of silence : 

" Sometimes, when I have finished my work and they are 
willing, I amuse myself also." 

" How do you amuse yourself? " 

" The best I can. They let me alone. But I have not many 
playthings. Ponine and Zelma are not willing for me to play 
with their dolls. I have only a little lead sword, not longer 
than that." 

The child showed her little finger. 

" And which does not cut? " 

" Yes, monsieur," said the child, " it cuts lettuce and flies' 

They reached the village; Cosette guided the stranger 
through the streets. They passed by the bakery, but Cosette 

Cosette 383 

did not think of the bread she was to have brought back. The 
man questioned her no more, and now maintained a mournful 
silence. When they had passed the church, the man, seeing all 
these booths in the street, asked Cosette: 

" Is it fair-time here ! " 

" No, monsieur, it is Christmas." 

As they drew near the tavern, Cosette timidly touched his 


"What, my child?" 

' Here we are close by the house." 


' Will you let me take the bucket now? " 

'What for?" 

' Because, if madame sees that anybody brought it for me, 
she will beat me." 

The man gave her the bucket. A moment after they were 
at the door of the chop-house. 



COSETTE could not help casting one look towards the grand doll 
still displayed in the toy-shop, then she rapped. The door 
opened. The Thenardiess appeared with a candle in her hand. 

" Oh! it is you, you little beggar! Lud-a-massy ! you have 
taken your time ! she has been playing, the wench ! " 

" Madame," said Cosette, trembling, " there is a gentleman 
who is coming to lodge." 

The The"nardiess very quickly replaced her fierce air by her 
: amiable .grimace, a change at sight peculiar to innkeepers, and 
, looked for the new-comer with eager eyes. 

" Is it monsieur? " said she. 

" Yes, madame," answered the man, touching his hat. 

Rich travellers are not so polite. This gesture and the sight 
<of the stranger's costume and baggage which the Th6nardiess 
passed in review at a glance made the amiable grimace disappear 
and the fierce. air reappear. She added drily: 

" Enter, goodman." 

The " goodman " entered. The Thdnardiess cast a second 
; glance at him, examined particularly his long coat which was 


Les Miserables 

absolutely threadbare, and his hat which was somewhat broken, 
and with a nod, a wink, and a turn of her nose, consulted her 
husband, who was still drinking with the waggoners. The 
husband answered by that imperceptible shake of the forefinger 
which, supported by a protrusion of the lips, signifies in such a 
case: "complete destitution." Upon this the Thenardiess 
exclaimed : 

" Ah! my brave man, I am very sorry, but I have no room." 

" Put me where you will," said the man, " in the garret, in 
the stable. I will pay as if I had a room." 

" Forty sous." 

" Forty sous. Well." 

" In advance." 

" Forty sous," whispered a waggoner to the Thenardiess, " but 
it is only twenty sous." 

" It is forty sous for him/' replied the Thenardiess in the 
same tone. " I don't lodge poor people for less." 

" That is true," added her husband softly, " it ruins a house 
to have this sort of people." 

Meanwhile the man, after leaving his stick and bundle on a 
bench, had seated himself at a table on which Cosette had been 
quick to place a bottle of wine and a glass. The pedlar, who 
had asked for the bucket of water, had gone himself to carry it 
to his horse. Cosette had resumed her place under the kitchen 
table and her knitting. 

The man, who hardly touched his lips to the wine he had 
turned out, was contemplating the child with a strange attention. 

Cosette was ugly. Happy, she might, perhaps, have been 
pretty. We have already sketched this little pitiful face. 
Cosette was thin and pale; she was nearly eight years old, but 
one would hardly have thought her six. Her large eyes, sunk 
in a sort of shadow, were almost put out by continual weeping. 
The corners of her mouth had that curve of habitual anguish, 
which is seen in the condemned and in the hopelessly sick. 
Her hands were, as her mother had guessed, " covered with 
chilblains." The light of the fire which was shining upon her, 
made her bones stand out and rendered her thinness fearfully 
visible. As she was always shivering, she had acquired the 
habit of drawing her knees together. Her whole dress was 
nothing but a rag, which would have excited pity in the summer, 
and which excited horror in the winter. She had on nothing 
but cotton, and that full of holes; not a rag of woollen. Her 
skin showed here and there, and black and blue spots could be 

Cosette 385 

distinguished, which indicated the places where the Thenardiess 
had touched her. Her naked legs were red and rough. The 
hollows under her collar bones would make one weep. The 
whole person of this child, her gait, her attitude, the sound of 
her voice, the intervals between one word and another, her 
looks, her silence, her least motion, expressed and uttered a 
single idea: fear. 

Fear was spread all over her; she was, so to say, covered 
with it; fear drew back her elbows against her sides, drew her 
heels under her skirt, made her take the least possible room, 
prevented her from breathing more than was absolutely neces- 
sary, and had become what might be called her bodily habit, 
without possible variation, except of increase. There was in 
the depth of her eye an expression of astonishment mingled 
with terror. 

This fear was such that on coming in, all wet as she was, 
Cosette had not dared go and dry herself by the fire, but had 
gone silently to her work. 

The expression of the countenance of this child of eight years 
was habitually so sad and sometimes so tragical that it seemed, 
at certain moments, as if she were in the way of becoming an 
idiot or a demon. 

Never, as we have said, had she known what it is to pray, 
never had she set foot within a church. " How can I spare the 
time? " said the Thenardiess. 

The man in the yellow coat did not take his eyes from Cosette. 

Suddenly, the Thenardiess exclaimed out: 

"Oh! I forgot! that bread!" 

Cosette, according to her custom whenever the Thenardiess 
raised her voice, sprang out quickly from under the table. 

She had entirely forgotten the bread. She had recourse to 
the expedient of children who are always terrified. She lied. 

"^fadame, the baker was shut." 

" You ought to have knocked." 

" I did knock, madame." 


" He didn't open." 

" I'll find out to-morrow if that is true," said the Thenardiess, 
" and if you are lying you will lead a pretty dance. Meantime, 
give me back the fifteen-sous piece.' 

Cosette plunged her hand into her apron pocket, and turned 
white. The fifteen-sous piece was not there. 

" Come," said the Thenardiess, " didn't you hear me? " 

I N 

3 86 

Les Miserables 

Cosette turned her pocket inside out; there was nothing 
there. What could have become of that money? The little 
unfortunate could not utter a word. She was petrified. 

" Have you lost it, the fifteen-sous piece? " screamed the 
Thenardiess, " or do you want to steal it from me ? " 

At the same time she reached her arm towards the cowhide 
hanging in the chimney corner. 

This menacing movement gave Cosette the strength to cry 

" Forgive me ! Madame ! Madame ! I won't do so any 
more ! " 

The Thenardiess took down the whip. 

Meanwhile the man in the yellow coat had been fumbling 
in his waistcoat pocket, without being noticed. The other 
travellers were drinking or playing cards, and paid no attention 
to anything. 

Cosette was writhing with anguish in the chimney-corner, 
trying to gather up and hide her poor half-naked limbs. The 
Th6nardiess raised her arm. 

" I beg your pardon, madame," said the man, " but I just 
now saw something fall out of the pocket of that little girl's 
apron and roll away. That may be it." 

At the same time he stooped down and appeared to search 
on the floor for an instant. 

" Just so, here it is," said he, rising. 

And he handed a silver piece to the Thenardiess. 

" Yes, that is it," said she. 

That was not it, for it was a twenty-sous piece, but the 
Thdnardiess found her profit in it. She put the piece in her 
pocket, and contented herself with casting a ferocious look at 
the child and saying: 

" Don't let that happen again, ever." 

Cosette went back to what the Thenardiess called " her hole," 
and her large eye, fixed upon the unknown traveller, began to 
assume an expression that it had never known before. It was 
still only an artless astonishment, but a sort of blind confidence 
was associated with it. 

" Oh ! you want supper ? " asked the Thenardiess of the 

He did not answer. He seemed to be thinking deeply. 

" What is that man ? " said she between her teeth. " It is 
some frightful pauper. He hasn't a penny for his supper. Is 
he going to pay me for his lodging only? It is very lucky } 

Cosettc 387 

anyway, that he didn't think to steal the money that was on 
the floor." 

A door now opened, and Eponine and Azelma came in. 

They were really two pretty little girls, rather city girls than 
peasants, very charming, one with her well-polished auburn 
tresses, the other with her long black braids falling down her 
back, and both so lively, neat, plump, fresh, and healthy, that 
it^was a pleasure to see them. They were warmly clad, but 
with such maternal art, that the thickness of the stuff detracted 
nothing from the coquetry of the fit. Winter was provided 
against without effacing spring. These two little girls shed 
light around^ them. Moreover, they were regnant. In their 
toilet, in their gaiety, in the noise they made, there was sove- 
reignty. When they entered, the Thenardiess said to them in 
a scolding tone, which was full of adoration: "Ah! you are 
here then, you children ! " 

Then, taking them upon her knees one after the other, 
smoothing their hair, tying over their ribbons, and finally 
letting them go with that gentle sort of shake which is peculiar 
to mothers, she exclaimed: 

" Are they dowdies ! " 

They went and sat down by the fire. They had a doll which 
they turned backwards and forwards upon their knees with 
many pretty prattlings. From time to time, Cosette raised her 
eyes from her knitting, and looked sadly at them as they were 

Eponine and Azelma did not notice Cosette. To them she 
was like the dog. These three little girls could not count 
twenty-four years among them all, and they already repre- 
sented all human society ; on one side envy, on the other 

The doll of the Thenardier sisters was very much faded, and 
very old and broken; and it appeared none the less wonderful 
to Cosette, who had never in her life had a doll, a real doll, to 
use an expression that all children will understand. 

All at once, the Thenardiess who was continually going and 
coming about the room, noticed that Cosette's attention was 
distracted, and that instead of working she was busied with the 
little girls who were playing. 

" Ah ! I've caught you ! " cried she. " That is the way you 
work! I'll make you work with a cowhide, I will." 

The stranger, without leaving his chair, turned towards the 

388 Les Miserables 

" Madame," said he, smiling diffidently. " Pshaw ! let her 
play ! " 

On the part of any traveller who had eaten a slice of mutton, 
and drunk two bottles of wine at his supper, and who had not 
had the appearance of a horrid pauper, such a wish would have 
been a command. But that a man who wore that hat should 
allow himself to have a desire, and that a man who wore that 
coat should permit himself to have a wish, was what the Thenar- 
diess thought ought not to be tolerated. She replied sharply : 

" She must work, for she eats. I don't support her to do 

" What is it she is making? " said the stranger, in that gentle 
voice which contrasted so strangely with his beggar's clothes 
and his porter's shoulders. 

The Thenardiess deigned to answer. 

" Stockings, if you please. Stockings for my little girls who 
have none, worth speaking of, and will soon be going barefooted." 

The man looked at Cosette's poor red feet, and continued : 

" When will she finish that pair of stockings ? " 

" It will take her at least three or four good days, the lazy 

" And how much might this pair of stockings be worth, when 
it is finished ? " 

The Thenardiess cast a disdainful glance at him. 

" At least thirty sous." 

" Would you take five francs for them ? " said the man. 

" Goodness ! " exclaimed a waggoner who was listening, with 
a horse-laugh, " five francs? It's a humbug! five bullets! " 

Thenardier now thought it time to speak. 

" Yes, monsieur, if it is your fancy, you can have that pair 
of stockings for five francs. We can't refuse anything to 

" You must pay for them now," said the Thenardiess, in her 
short and peremptory way. 

" I will buy that pair of stockings," answered the man, " and," 
added he, drawing a five franc piece from his pocket and laying 
it on the table, " I will pay for them." 

Then he turned towards Cosette. 

" Now your work belongs to me. Play, my child." 

The waggoner was so affected by the five franc piece, that he 
left his glass and went to look at it. 

" It's so, that's a fact! " cried he, as he looked at it. " A 
regular hindwheel! and no counterfeit! " 


The"nardier approached, and silentlv nnt- *K. 
pocket. the P j ece m his 

She bit her lii 

a terrible voice 

. Thenardier returned to his drink. His wife whispered in 
|| What can that yellow man be? " 


= - 

listened to Eponine with wonder 
Meanwhile, the drinkers were singing an obscene son* at 
whzch they laughed enough to shake L room ThSdier 
encouraged and accompanied them 

a ane f 

ma^er wt^ a vk a i ne ? f ^ thin g> cMdren make a doll of no 
matter what. While Epomne and Azelma were dressing up the 

390 Les Miserables 

cat, Cosette, for her part, had dressed up the sword. That done, 
she had laid it upon her arm, and was singing it softly to sleep. 

The doll is one of the most imperious necessities, and at the 
same time one of the most charming instincts of female child- 
hood. To care for, to clothe, to adorn, to dress, to undress, to 
dress over again, to teach, to scold a little, to rock, to cuddle, 
to put to sleep, to imagine that something is somebody all the 
future of woman is there. Even while musing and prattling, 
while making little wardrobes and little baby-clothes, while 
sewing little dresses, little bodices, and little jackets, the child 
becomes a little girl, the little girl becomes a great girl, the 
great girl becomes a woman. The first baby takes the place 
of the last doll. 

A little girl without a doll is almost as unfortunate and quite 
as impossible as a woman without children. 

Cosette had therefore made a doll of her sword. 

The Thenardiess, on her part, approached the yellow man. 
""My husband is right," thought she; "it may be Monsieur 
Laffitte. Some rich men are so odd." 

She came and rested her elbow on the table at which he was 

" Monsieur," said she 

At this word monsieur, the man turned. The Thenardiess 
had called him before only brave man or good man. 

" You see, monsieur," she pursued, putting on her sweetest 
look, which was still more unendurable than her ferocious 
manner, " I am very willing the child should play, I am not 
opposed to it; it is well for once, because you are generous. 
But, you see, she is poor; she must work." 

" The child is not yours, then? " asked the man. 

" Oh dear ! no, monsieur ! It is a little pauper that we have 
taken in through charity. A sort of imbecile child. She must 
have water on her brain. Her head is big, as you see. We do 
all we can for her, but we are not rich. We write in vain to 
her country; for six months we have had no answer. We 
think that her mother must be dead." 

" Ah ! " said the man, and he fell back into his reverie. 

" This mother was no great things," added the Thenardiess. 
" She abandoned her child." 

During all this conversation, Cosette, as if an instinct had 
warned her that they were talking about her, had not taken 
her eyes from the Thenardiess. She listened. She heard a 
few words here and there. 


39 1 

Meanwhile the drinkers, all three-quarters drunk, were 
repeating their foul chorus with redoubled gaiety. It was 
highly spiced with jests, in which the names of the Virgin and 
the child Jesus were often heard. The Thenardiess had gone 
to take her part in the hilarity. Cosette, under the table, was 
looking into the fire, which was reflected from her fixed eye; 
she was again rocking the sort of rag baby that she had made, 
and as she rocked it, she sang in a low voice; " My mother is 
dead ! my mother is dead ! my mother is dead ! " 

At the repeated entreaties of the hostess, the yellow man, 
" the millionaire," finally consented to sup. 

" What will monsieur have? " 

" Some bread and cheese," said the man. 

" Decidedly, it is a beggar," thought the Thenardiess. 

The revellers continued to sing their songs, and the child, 
under the table, also sang hers. 

All at once, Cosette stopped. She had just turned and seen 
the little Thenardiers' doll, which they had forsaken for the cat 
and left on the floor, a few steps from the kitchen table. 

Then she let the bundled-up sword, that only half satisfied 
her, fall, and ran her eyes slowly around the room. The Thenar- 
diess was whispering to her husband and counting some money, 
Eponine and Azelma were playing with the cat, the travellers 
were eating or drinking or singing, nobody was looking at her. 
She had not a moment to lose. She crept out from under the 
table on her hands and knees, made sure once more that nobody 
was watching her, then darted quickly to the doll, and seized it. 
An instant afterwards she was at her place, seated, motionless, 
only turned in such a way as to keep the doll that she held in 
her arms in the shadow. The happiness of playing with a doll 
was so rare to her that it had all the violence of rapture. 

Nobody had seen her, except the traveller, who was slowly 
eating his meagre supper. 

This joy lasted for nearly a quarter of an hour. 

But in spite of Cosette's precautions, she did not perceive 
that one of the doll's feet stuck out, and that the fire of the fire- 
place lighted it up very vividly. This rosy and luminous foot 
which protruded from the shadow suddenly caught Azelma's 
eye, and she said to Eponine : " Oh ! sister ! " 
' The two little girls stopped, stupefied; Cosette had dared to 
take the doll. 

Eponine got up, and without letting go of the cat, went to 
her mother and began to pull at her skirt. 

39 2 Les Miserables 

" Let me alone," said the mother; " what do you want? " 

" Mother/' said the child, " look there." 

And she pointed at Cosette. 

Cosette, wholly absorbed in the ecstasy of her possession, 
saw and heard nothing else. 

The face of the Thenardiess assumed the peculiar expression 
which is composed of the terrible mingled with the common- 
place, and which has given this class of women the name of 

This time wounded pride exasperated her anger still more. 
Cosette had leaped over all barriers. Cosette had laid her 
hands upon the doll of " those young ladies." A czarina who 
had seen a moujik trying on the grand cordon of her imperial 
son would have had the same expression. 

She cried with a voice harsh with indignation: 


Cosette shuddered as if the earth had quaked beneath her. 
She turned around. 

" Cosette ! " repeated the Thenardiess. 

Cosette took the doll and placed it gently on the floor with a 
kind of veneration mingled with despair. Then, without taking 
away her eyes, she joined her hands, and, what is frightful to 
tell in a child of that age, she wrung them ; then, what none of 
the emotions of the day had drawn from her, neither the run in 
the wood, nor the weight of the bucket of water, nor the loss of 
the money, nor the sight of the cowhide, nor even the stern 
words she had heard from the Thenardiess, she burst into tears. 
She sobbed. 

Meanwhile the traveller arose. 

" What is the matter? " said he to the Thenardiess. 

" Don't you see? " said the Thenardiess, pointing with her 
finger to the corpus delicti lying at Cosette's feet. 

" Well, what is that? " said the man. 

" That beggar," answered the Thenardiess, " has dared to 
touch the children's doll." 

" All this noise about that? " said the man. " Well, what if 
she did play with that doll? " 

" She has touched it with her dirty hands ! " continued the 
Thenardiess, " with her horrid hands ! " 

Here Cosette redoubled her sobs. 

" Be still! " cried the Thenardiess. 

The man walked straight to the street door, opened it, and 
went out. 



As soon as he haa 5 one, tin, Thenardiess profited by his 
absence to give Cosette under the taou, . <;p.vere KUA V , v hi c h 
made the child shriek. 

The door opened again, and the man reappeared, holding in 
his hands the fabulous doll of which we have spoken, and which 
had been the admiration of all the youngsters of the village 
since morning ; he stood it up before Cosette, saying : 

" Here, this is for you." 

It is probable that during the time he had been there more 
than an hour in the midst of his reverie, he had caught con- 
fused glimpses of this toy-shop, lighted up with lamps and 
candles so splendidly that it shone through the bar-room 
window like an illumination. 

Cosette raised her eyes ; she saw the man approach her with 
that doll as she would have seen the sun approach, she heard 
those astounding words: This is for you. She looked at him, 
she looked at the doll, then she drew back slowly, and went and 
hid as far as she could under the table in the corner of the room. 

She wept no more, she cried no more, she had the appearance 
of no longer daring to breathe. 

The Thenardiess, Eponine, and Azelma were so many statues. 
Even the drinkers stopped. There was a solemn silence in the 
whole bar-room. 

The Thenardiess, petrified and mute, recommenced her con- 
jectures anew: " What is this old fellow? is he a pauper? is 
he a millionaire ? Perhaps he's both, that is a robber." 

The face of the husband Thenardier presented that expressive 
wrinkle which marks the human countenance whenever the 
dominant instinct appears in it with all its brutal power. The 
innkeeper contemplated by turns the doll and the traveller; he 
seemed to be scenting this man as he would have scented a bag 
of money. This only lasted for a moment. He approached 
his wife and whispered to her: 

" That machine cost at least thirty francs. No nonsense. 
Down on your knees before the man ! " 

Coarse natures have this in common with artless natures, 
that they have no transitions. 

" Well, Cosette," said the Thenardiess in a voice which was 
meant to be sweet, and which was entirely composed of the soul- 
honey of vicious women, " a'n't you going to take your doll? 
Cosette ventured to come out of her hole. 
" My little Cosette," said Thenardier with a caressing air, 
" Monsieur gives you a doll. Take it. It is yours." 

394 kes Miserables 

Cosette looked upon the wo~ J ~ ir uJ 4** wth a sort of terror. 
Her fa^ -^ still floo^-^ Wlt h tears, but her eyes began to fill, 
I.-AC the sky in the breaking of the dawn, with strange radiations 
of joy. What she experienced at that moment was almost like 
what she would have felt if some one had said to her suddenly : 
Little girl, you are queen of France. 

It seemed to her that if she touched that doll, thunder would 
spring forth from it. 

Which was true to some extent, for she thought that the 
Thenardiess would scold and beat her. 

However, the attraction overcame her. She finally approached 
and timidly murmured, turning towards the Thenardiess : 

" Can I, madame? " 

No expression can describe her look, at once full of despair, 
dismay, and transport. 

"Good Lord!" said the Th6nardiess, "it is yours. Since 
monsieur gives it to you." 

" Is it true, is it true, monsieur? " said Cosette; " is the lady 

The stranger appeared to have his eyes full of tears. He 
seemed to be at that stage of emotion in which one does not 
speak for fear of weeping. He nodded assent to Cosette, and 
put the hand of " the lady " in her little hand. 

Cosette withdrew her hand hastily, as if that of the lady 
burned her, and looked down at the floor. We are compelled 
to add, that at that instant she thrust out her tongue enormously. 
All at once she turned, and seized the doll eagerly. 

" I will call her Catharine," said she. 

.It was a strange moment when Cosette's rags met and pressed 
against the ribbons and the fresh pink muslins of the doll. 

" Madame," said she, " may I put her in a chair? " 

" Yes, my child," answered the Thenardiess. 

It was Eponine and Azelma now who looked upon Cosette 
with envy. 

Cosette placed Catharine on a chair, then sat down on the 
floor before her, and remained motionless, without saying a 
word, in the attitude of contemplation. 

" Why don't you play, Cosette? " said the stranger. 

"Oh! I am playing," answered the child. 

This stranger, this unknown man, who seemed like a visit 
from Providence to Cosette, was at that moment the being 
which the Thenardiess hated more than aught else in the world. 
However, she was compelled to restrain herself. Her emotions 



were more than she could endure, accustomed as she was to 
dissimulation, by endeavouring to copy her husband in all her 
actions. She sent her daughters to bed immediately, then 
asked the yellow man's permission to send Cosette to bed 
who is very tired to-day, added she, with a motherly air. Cosette 
went to bed, holding Catharine in her arms. 

The Thenardiess went from time to time to the other end of 
the room, where her husband was, to soothe her soul, she said. 
She exchanged a few words with him, which were the more 
furious that she did not dare to speak them aloud : 

" The old fool ! what has he got into his head, to come here 
to disturb us ! to want that little monster to play ! to give her 
dolls ! to give forty-franc dolls to a slut that I wouldn't give 
forty sous for. A little more, and he would say your majesty 
to her, as they do to the Duchess of Berry ! Is he in his senses ? 
he must be crazy, the strange old fellow ! " 

"Why? It is very simple," replied Thenardier. "If it 
amuses him! It amuses you for the girl to work; it amuses 
him for her to play. He has the right to do it. A traveller 
can do as he likes, if he pays for it. If this old fellow is a 
philanthropist, what is that to you? if he is crazy it don't 
concern you. What do you interfere for, as long as he has 
money ? " 

Language of a master and reasoning of an innkeeper, which 
neither in one case nor the other admits of reply. 

The man had leaned his elbows on the table, and resumed his 
attitude of reverie. All the other travellers, pedlars, and 
waggoners, had drawn back a little, and sung no more. They 
looked upon him from a distance with a sort of respectful fear. 

This solitary man, so poorly clad, who took five-franc pieces 
from his pocket with so much indifference, and who lavished 
gigantic dolls on little brats in wooden shoes, was certainly a 
magnificent and formidable goodman. 

Several hours passed away. The midnight mass was said, 
the revel was finished, the drinkers had gone, the house was 
closed, the room was deserted, the fire had gone out, the stranger 
still remained in the same place and in the same posture. From- 
time to time he changed the elbow on which he rested. That 
was all. But he had not spoken a word since Cosette was gone. 

The Thenardiers alone, out of propriety and curiosity, had 
remained in the room. 

" Is he going to spend the night like this? " grumbled the 
Thenardiess. When the clock struck two in the morning, she 

39 6 

Les Miserables 

acknowledged herself beaten, and said to her husband : " I am 
going to bed, you may do as you like." The husband sat down 
at a table in a corner, lighted a candle, and began to read the 
Courrier Franfais. 

A good hour passed thus. The worthy innkeeper had read 
the Courrier Franfais at least three times, from the date of the 
number to the name of the printer. The stranger did not stir. 

Thenardier moved, coughed, spit, blew his nose, and creaked 
his chair. The man did not stir. " Is he asleep? " thought 
Thenardier. The man was not asleep, but nothing could arouse 

Finally, Thenardier took off his cap, approached softly, and 
ventured to say : 

" Is monsieur not going to repose? " 

Not going to bed would have seemed to him too much and too 
familiar. To repose implied luxury, and there was respect in it. 
Such words have the mysterious and wonderful property of 
swelling the bill in the morning. A room in which you go ta 
bed costs twenty sous ; a room in which you repose costs twenty 

" Yes," said the stranger, " you are right. Where is your 
stable? " 

" Monsieur," said Thenardier, with a smile, " I will conduct 

He took the candle, the man took his bundle and his staff, 
and Thenardier led him into a room on the first floor, which 
was very showy, furnished all in mahogany, with a high-post 
bedstead and red calico curtains. 

" What is this? " said the traveller. 

" It is properly our bridal chamber," said the innkeeper. 
" We occupy another like this, my spouse and I ; this is not 
open more than three or four times in a year." 

" I should have liked the stable as well," said the man, 

Thenardier did not appear to hear this not very civil answer. 

He lighted two entirely new wax candles, which were dis- 
played upon the mantel; a good fire was blazing in the fire- 
place. There was on the mantel, under a glass case, a woman's 
head-dress of silver thread and orange-flowers. 

" What is this? " said the stranger. 

" Monsieur," said Thenardier, " it is my wife's bridal 

The traveller looked at the object with a look which seemed 

Cosette 397 

to say : " there was a moment, then, when this monster was a 

Thenardier lied, however. When he hired this shanty to 
turn it into a chop-house, he found the room thus furnished, 
and bought this furniture, and purchased at second-hand these 
orange-flowers, thinking that this would cast a gracious light 
over " his spouse," and that the house would derive from them 
what the English call respectability. 

When the traveller turned again the host had disappeared. 
Thenardier had discreetly taken himself out of the way without 
daring to say good-night, not desiring to treat with a disrespect- 
ful cordiality a man whom he proposed to skin royally in the 
morning. . 

The innkeeper retired to this room; his wife was m bed, but 
not asleep. When she heard her husband's step, she turned 
towards him, and said: 

" You know that I am going to kick Cosette out doors 
to-morrow ! " 

Thenardier coolly answered: 
" You are, indeed ! " 

They exchanged no further words, and in a few moments 
their candle was blown out. 

For his part, the traveller had put his staff and bundle in a 
corner. The host gone, he sat down in an arm-chair, and 
remained some time thinking. Then he drew off his shoes, took 
one of the two candles, blew out the other, pushed open the 
door, and went out of the room, looking about him as if he were 
searching for something. He passed through a hall, and came 
to the stairway. There he heard a very soft little sound, which 
resembled the breathing of a child. Guided by this sound he 
came to a sort of triangular nook built under the stairs, or, 
rather, formed by the staircase itself. This hole was nothing 
but the space beneath the stairs. There, among all sorts of old 
baskets and old rubbish, in the dust and among the cobwebs, 
there was a bed; if a mattress so full of holes as to show the 
straw and a covering so full of holes as to show the mattress, 
can be called a bed. There were no sheets. This was placed 
on the floor immediately on the tiles. In this bed Cosette was 

The man approached and looked at her. 
Cosette was sleeping soundly; she was dressed. In the 
winter she did not undress on account of the cold. She held 
the doll clasped in her arms; its large open eyes shone in the 


Lcs Miserables 

obscurity. From time to time she heaved a deep sigh, as if 
she were about to wake, and she hugged the doll almost con- 
vulsively. There was only one of her wooden shoes at the 
side of her bed. An open door near Cosette's nook disclosed a 
large dark room. The stranger entered. At the further end, 
through a glass window, he perceived two little beds with very 
white spreads. They were those of Azelma and Eponine. Half 
hid behind these beds was a willow cradle without curtains, in 
which the little boy who had cried all the evening was sleeping. 

The stranger conjectured that this room communicated with 
that of the Thenardiers. He was about to withdraw when his 
eye fell upon the fireplace, one of those huge tavern fireplaces 
where there is always so little fire, when there is a fire, and 
which are so cold to look upon. In this one there was no fire, 
there were not even any ashes. What there was, however, 
attracted the traveller's attention. It was two little children's 
shoes, of coquettish shape and of different sizes. The traveller 
remembered the graceful and immemorial custom of children 
putting their shoes in the fireplace on Christmas night, to wait 
there in the darkness in expectation of some shining gift from 
their good fairy. Eponine and Azelma had taken good care 
not to forget this, and each had put one of her shoes in the 

The traveller bent over them. 

The fairy that is to say, the mother had already made her 
visit, and shining in each shoe was a beautiful new ten-sous 

The man rose up and was on the point of going away, when 
he perceived further along, by itself, in the darkest corner of 
the fireplace, another object. He looked, and recognised a 
shoe, a horrid wooden shoe of the clumsiest sort, half broken 
and covered with ashes and dried mud. It was Cosette's shoe. 
Cosette, with that touching confidence of childhood which can 
always be deceived without ever being discouraged, had also 
placed her shoe in the fireplace. 

What a sublime and sweet thing is hope in a child who has 
never known anything but despair! 

There was nothing in this wooden shoe. 

The stranger fumbled in his waistcoat, bent over, and dropped 
into Cosette's shoe a gold Louis. 

Then he went back to his room with stealthy tread. 

Cosette 399 



ON the following morning, at least two hours before day, 
Thenardier, seated at a table in the bar-room, a candle by his 
side, with pen in hand, was making out the bill of the traveller 
in the yellow coat. 

His wife was standing, half bent over him, following him 
with her eyes. Not a word passed between them. It was, on 
one side, a profound meditation, on the other that religious 
admiration with which we observe a marvel of the human mind 
spring up and expand. A noise was heard in the house; it was 
the lark, sweeping the stairs. 

After a good quarter of an hour and some erasures, Thenardier 
produced this masterpiece. 

Bill of Monsieur in No. i. 

Supper 3 frs. 

Room I0 

Candle 5 

Fire 4 

Service . : 

Total . 23 frs. 

Service was written servisse. 

"Twenty-three francs!" exclaimed the woman, with an 
enthusiasm which was mingled with some hesitation. 

Like all great artists, Thenardier was not satisfied. 

" Pooh ! " said he. 

It was the accent of Castlereagh drawing up for the Congress 
of Vienna the bill which France was to pay. 

"Monsieur Thenardier, you are right, he deserves it," 
murmured the woman, thinking of the doll given to Cosette in 
the presence of her daughters; " it is right! but it's too much. 
He won't pay it." 

Thenardier put on his cold laugh, and said : " He will pay it. 

This laugh was the highest sign of certainty and authority. 
What was thus said, must be. The woman did not insist. 
She began to arrange the tables; the husband walked back and 
forth in the room. A moment after he added : 

" I owe, at least, fifteen hundred francs ! " 

He seated himself thoughtfully in the chimney corner, his 
feet in the warm ashes. 

400 Les Miserables 

" Ah ha ! " replied the woman, " you don't forget that I kick 
Cosette out of the house to-day? The monster! it tears my 
vitals to see her with her doll! I would rather marry Louis 
XVIII. than keep her in the house another day ! " 

Thenardier lighted his pipe, and answered between two puffs: 

" You'll give the bill to the man." 

Then he went out. 

He was scarcely out of the room when the traveller came in. 

Thenardier reappeared immediately behind him, and remained 
motionless in the half-open door, visible only to his wife. 

The yellow man carried his staff and bundle in his hand. 

" Up so soon ! " said the Thenardiess; " is monsieur going to 
leave us already? " 

While speaking, she turned the bill in her hands with an 
embarrassed look, and made creases in it with her nails. Her 
hard face exhibited a shade of timidity and doubt that was 
not habitual. 

To present such a bill to a man who had so perfectly the 
appearance of " a pauper " seemed too awkward to her. 

The traveller appeared pre-occupied and absent-minded. 

He answered: 

" Yes, madame, I am going away." 

" Monsieur, then, had no business at Montfermeil ? " replied she. 

"No, I am passing through; that is all. Madame," added 
he, "what do I owe?" 

The Thenardiess, without answering, handed him the folded 

The man unfolded the paper and looked at it; but his thoughts 
were evidently elsewhere. 

" Madame," replied he, " do you do a good business in 

" So-so, monsieur," answered the Thenardiess, stupefied at 
seeing no other explosion. 

She continued in a mournful and lamenting strain : 

" Oh ! monsieur, the times are very hard, and then we have 
so few rich people around here ! It is a very little place, you 
see. If we only had rich travellers now and then, like monsieur ! 
We have so many expenses! Why, that little girl eats us out 
of house and home." 

"What little girl?" 

" Why, the little girl you know! Cosette! the lark, as they 
call her about here ! " 

" Ah ! " said the man. 

Cosette 401 

She continued: 

" How stupid these peasants are with their nicknames! She 
looks more like a bat than a lark. You see, monsieur, we don't 
ask charity, but we are not able to give it. We make nothing, 
and have a great deal to pay. The licence, the excise, the doors 
and windows, the tax on everything! Monsieur knows that 
the government demands a deal of money. And then I have 
my own girls. I have nothing to spend on other people's 

The man replied in a voice which he endeavoured to render 
indifferent, and in which there was a slight tremulousness. 

" Suppose you were relieved of her? " 

"Who? Cosette?" 

" Yes." 

The red and violent face of the woman became illumined 
with a hideous expression. 

"Ah, monsieur! my good monsieur! take her, keep her, 
take her away, carry her off, sugar her, stuff her, drink her, 
eat her, and be blessed by the holy Virgin and all the saints in 
Paradise ! " 

" Agreed." 

" Really ! you will take her away? " 

" I will." 

" Immediately? " 

" Immediately. Call the child." 

" Cosette ! " cried the Thenardiess. 

" In the meantime," continued the man, " I will pay my bill. 
How much is it? " 

He cast a glance at the bill, and could not repress a movement 
of surprise. 

" Twenty-three francs? " 

He looked at the hostess and repeated : 

" Twenty-three francs? " 

There was, in the pronunciation of these two sentences, thus 
repeated, the accent which lies between the point of exclamation 
and the point of interrogation. 

The Thenardiess had had time to prepare herself for the shock. 
She replied with assurance: 

" Yes, of course, monsieur! it is twenty-three francs." 

The stranger placed five five-franc pieces upon the table. 

" Go for the little girl," said he. 

At this moment Thenardier advanced into the middle of the 
room and said: 

402 Les Miserables 

" Monsieur owes twenty-six sous." 

" Twenty-six sous! " exclaimed the woman. 

" Twenty sous for the room," continued Thenardier coldly, 
" and six for supper. As to the little girl, I must have some 
talk with monsieur about that. Leave us, wife." 

The Thenardiess was dazzled by one of those unexpected 
flashes which emanate from talent. She felt that the great 
actor had entered upon the scene, answered not a word, and 
went out. 

As soon as they were alone, Thenardier offered the traveller 
a chair. The traveller sat down, but Thenardier remained 
standing, and his face assumed a singular expression of good- 
nature and simplicity. 

" Monsieur," said he, " listen, I must say that I adore this 

The stranger looked at him steadily. 

"What child?" 

Thenardier continued: 

" How strangely we become attached ! What is all this 
silver? Take back your money. This child I adore." 

" Who is that? " asked the stranger. 

" Oh, our little Cosette ! And you wish to take her away 
from us ? Indeed, I speak frankly, as true as you are an honour- 
able man, I cannot consent to it. I should miss her. I have 
had her since she was very small. It is true, she costs us money ; 
it is true she has her faults, it is true we are not rich, it is true I 
paid four hundred francs for medicines at one time when she 
was sick. But we must do something for God. She has neither 
father nor mother; I have brought her up. I have bread 
enough for her and for myself. In fact, I must keep this child. 
You understand, we have affections ; I am a good beast ; myself ; 
I do not reason ; I love this little girl ; my wife is hasty, but she 
loves her also. You see, she is like our own child. I feel the 
need of her prattle in the house." 

The stranger was looking steadily at him all the while. He 

" Pardon me, excuse me, monsieur, but one does not give his 
child like that to a traveller. Isn't it true that I am right? 
After that, I don't say you are rich and 4 have the appearance 
of a very fine man if it is for her advantage, but I must 
know about it. You understand? On the supposition that 
I should let her go and sacrifice my own feelings, I should want 
to know where she is going. I would not want to lose sight of 



her, I should want to know who she was with, that I might come 
and see her now and then, and that she might know that her 
good foster-father was still watching over her. Finally, there 
are things which are not possible. I do not know even your 
name. If you should take her away, I should say, alas for the 
little Lark, where has she gone? I must, at least, see some 
poor rag of paper, a bit of a passport, something." 

The stranger, without removing from him this gaze which 
went, so to speak, to the bottom of his conscience, answered in 
a severe and firm tone: 

" Monsieur Thenardier, people do not take a passport to come 
we leagues from Paris. If I take Cosette, I take her, that is 
You will not know my name, you will not know my abode, 
/ou will not know where she goes, and my intention is that she 
shall never see you again in her life. Do you agree to that? 
Yes or no ? " 

As demons and genii recognise by certain signs the presence 
of a superior God, Thenardier comprehended that he had to 
deal with one who was very powerful. It came like an intuition ; 
he understood it with his clear and quick sagacity; although 
during the evening he had been drinking with the waggoners, 
smoking, and singing bawdy songs, still he was observing the 
stranger all the while, watching him like a cat, and studying 
him like a mathematician. He had been observing him on his 
own account, for pleasure and by instinct, and at the same 
time lying in wait as if he had been paid for it. Not a gesture, 
not a movement of the man in the yellow coat had escaped him. 
Before even the stranger had so clearly shown his interest in 
Cosette, Thenardier had divined it. He had surprised the 
searching glances of the old man constantly returning to the 
child. Why this interest? What was this man? Why, with 
so much money in his purse, this miserable dress? These were 
questions which he put to himself without being able to answer 
them, and they irritated him. He had been thinking it over 
all night. This could not be the Cosette's father. Was it a 
grandfather? Then why did he not make himself known at 
once? When a man has a right, he shows it. This man 
evidently had no right to Cosette. Then who was he? The- 
nardier was lost in conjectures. He caught glimpses of every- 
thing, but saw nothing. However it might be, when he 
commenced the conversation with this man, sure that there 
was a secret in all this, sure that the man had an interest in 
remaining unknown, he felt himself strong; at the stranger's 

404 Les Miserables 

clear and firm answer, when he saw that this mysterious person- 
age was mysterious and nothing more, he felt weak. He was 
expecting nothing of the kind. His conjectures were put to 
flight. He rallied 'his ideas. He weighed all in a second. 
Thenardier was one of those men who comprehend a situation 
at a glance. He decided that this was the moment to advance 
straightforward and swiftly. He did what great captains do 
at that decisive instant which they alone can recognise; he 
unmasked his battery at once. 

" Monsieur," said he, " I must have fifteen hundred 

The stranger took from his side-pocket an old black leather 
pocket-book, opened it, and drew forth three bank bills which 
he placed upon the table. He then rested his large thumb on 
these bills, and said to the tavern-keeper. 

" Bring Cosette." 

While this was going on what was Cosette doing ? 

Cosette, as soon as she awoke, had run to her wooden shoe. 
She had found the gold piece in it. It was not a Napoleon, 
but one of those new twenty-franc pieces of the Restoration, 
on the face of which the little Prussian queue had replaced the 
laurel crown. Cosette was dazzled. Her destiny began to 
intoxicate her. She did not know that it was a piece of gold ; 
she had never seen one before; she hastily concealed it in her 
pocket as if she had stolen it. Nevertheless she felt it boded 
good to her. She divined whence the gift came, but she ex- 
perienced a joy that was filled with awe. She was gratified; 
she was moreover stupefied. Such magnificent and beautiful 
things seemed unreal to her. The doll made her afraid, the gold 
piece made her afraid. She trembled with wonder before these 
magnificences. The stranger himself did not make her afraid. 
On the contrary, he reassured her. Since the previous evening, 
amid all her astonishment, and in her sleep, she was thinking 
in her little child's mind of this man who had such an old, and 
poor, and sad appearance, and who was so rich and so kind. 
Since she had met this goodman in the wood, it seemed as 
though all things were changed about her. Cosette, less happy 
than the smallest swallow of the sky, had never known what 
it is to take refuge under a mother's wing. For five years, 
that is to say, as far back as she could remember, the poor child 
had shivered and shuddered. She had always been naked 
under the biting north wind of misfortune, and now it seemed 
to her that she was clothed. Before her soul was cold, now it 

Cosette 405 

was warm. Cosette was no longer 1 afraid of the Thenardiers; 
she was no longer alone ; she had somebody to look to. 

She hurriedly set herself to her morning task. This louis, 
which she had placed in the same pocket of her apron from 
which the fifteen-sous piece had fallen the night before, dis- 
tracted her attention from her work. She did not dare to 
touch it, but she spent five minutes at a time contemplating 
it, and we must confess, with her tongue thrust out. While 
sweeping the stairs, she stopped and stood there, motionless, 
forgetting her broom, and the whole world besides, occupied in 
looking at this shining star at the bottom of her pocket. 

It was in one of these reveries that the Thenardiess found her. 
At the command of her husband, she had gone to look for her. 
Wonderful to tell, she did not give her a slap nor even call her 
a hard name. 

" Cosette," said she, almost gently, " come quick." 
An instant after, Cosette entered the bar-room. 
The stranger took the bundle he had brought and untied it. 
This bundle contained a little woollen frock, an apron, a coarse 
cotton under-garment, a petticoat, a scarf, woollen stockings, 
and shoes a complete dress for a girl of seven years. It was 
all in black. 

" My child," said the man, " take this and go and dress 
yourself quick." 

The day was breaking when those of the inhabitants of 
Montfermeil who were beginning to open their doors, saw pass 
on the road to Paris a poorly clad goodman leading a little girl 
dressed in mourning who had a pink doll in her arms. They 
were going towards Livry. 

It was the stranger and Cosette. 

No one recognised the man ; as Cosette was not now in tatters, 
few recognised her. 

Cosette was going away. With whom? She was ignorant. 
Where? She knew not. All she understood was, that she 
was leaving behind the Thenardier chop-house. Nobody had 
thought of bidding her good-by, nor had she of bidding good-by 
to anybody. She went out from that house, hated and hating. 
Poor gentle being, whose heart had only been crushed hithert 
Cosette walked seriously along, opening her large eyes an< 
looking at the sky. She had put her louis in the pocket of her 
new apron. From time to time she bent over and cast a glance 
at it, and then looked at the goodman. She felt somewhat as 
if she were near God. - 

406 Les Miserables 


THE Thenardiess, according to her custom, had left her husband 
alone. She was expecting great events. When the man and 
Cosette were gone, Thenardier, after a good quarter of an hour, 
took her aside, and showed her the fifteen hundred francs. 

" What's that? " said she. 

It was the first time, since the beginning of their housekeeping, 
that she had dared to criticise the act of her master. 

He felt the blow. 

" True, you are right," said he; " I am a fool. Give me my 

He folded the three bank bills, thrust them into his pocket, 
and started in all haste, but he missed the direction and took 
the road to the right. Some neighbours of whom he inquired 
put him on the track; the Lark and the man had been seen 
to go in the direction of Livry. He followed this indication, 
walking rapidly and talking to himself. 

" This man is evidently a millionaire dressed in yellow, and 
as for me, I am a brute. He first gave twenty sous, then five 
francs, then fifty francs, then fifteen hundred francs, all so 
readily. He would have given fifteen thousand francs. But 
I shall catch him." 

And then this bundle of clothes, made ready beforehand for 
the little girl; all that was strange, there was a good deal of 
mystery under it. When one gets hold of a mystery, he does 
not let go of it. The secrets of the rich are sponges full of gold ; 
a man ought to know how to squeeze them. All these thoughts 
were whirling in his brain. " I am a brute," said he. 

On leaving Montfermeil and reaching the turn made by the 
road to Livry, the route may be seen for a long distance on the 
plateau. On reaching this point he counted on being able to 
see the man and the little girl. He looked as far as his eye 
could reach, but saw nothing. He inquired again. In the 
meanwhile he was losing time. The passers-by told him that 
the man and child whom he sought had travelled towards the 
wood in the direction of Gagny. He hastened in this direction. 

They had the start of him, but a child walks slowly, and he 
went rapidly. And then the country was well known to him. 

Cosette 407 

Suddenly he stopped and struck his forehead like a man who 
has forgotten the main thing, and who thinks of retracing his 

" I ought to have taken my gun! " said he. 

Thenardier was one of those double natures who sometimes 
appear among us without our knowledge, and disappear without 
ever being known, because destiny has shown us but one side 
of them. It is the fate of many men to live thus half sub- 
merged. In a quiet ordinary situation, Thenardier had all 
that is necessary to make we do not say to be what passes 
for an honest tradesman, a good citizen. At the same time, 
under certain circumstances, under the operation of certain 
occurrences exciting his baser nature, he had in him all that was 
necessary to be a villain. He was a shopkeeper, in which lay 
hidden a monster. Satan ought for a moment to have squatted 
in some corner of the hole in which Thenardier lived and studied 
this hideous masterpiece. 

After hesitating an instant: 

" Bah ! " thought he, " they would have time to escape ! " 

And he continued on his way, going rapidly forward, and 
almost as if he were certain, with the sagacity of the fox scenting 
a flock of partridges. 

In fact, when he had passed the ponds, and crossed obliquely 
the large meadow at the right of the avenue de Bellevue, as he 
reached the grassy path which nearly encircles the hill, and 
which covers the arch of the old aqueduct of the abbey of 
Chelles, he perceived above a bush, the hat on which he had 
already built so many conjectures. It was the man's hat. 
The bushes were low. Thenardier perceived that the man and 
Cosette were seated there. The child could not be seen, she was 
so short, but he could see the head of the doll. 

Thenardier was not deceived. The man had sat down there 
to give Cosette a little rest. The chop-house keeper turned 
aside the bushes, and suddenly appeared before the eyes of 
those whom he sought. 

" Pardon me, excuse me, monsieur," said he, all out of 
breath; " but here are your fifteen hundred francs." 

So saying, he held out the three bank bills to the stranger. 

The man raised his eyes: 

" What does that mean? " 

Thenardier answered respectfully : 

" Monsieur, that means that I take back Cosette." 

Cosette shuddered, and hugged close to the goodman. 


Les Miserables 

He answered, looking Thenardier straight in the eye, and 
spacing his syllables. 

" You take back Cosette ? " 

" Yes, monsieur, I take her back. I tell you I have reflected. 
Indeed, I haven't the right to give her to you. I am an honest 
man, you see. This little girl is not mine. She belongs to her 
mother. Her mother has confided her to me ; I can only give 
her up to her mother. You will tell me: But her mother is 
dead. Well. In that case, I can only give up the child to a 
person who shall bring me a written order, signed by the 
mother, stating I should deliver the child to him. That is 

The man, without answering, felt in his pocket, and Thenar- 
dier saw the pocket-book containing the bank bills reappear. 

The tavern-keeper felt a thrill of joy. 

"Good!" thought he; "hold on. He is going to corrupt 

Before opening the pocket-book, the traveller cast a look 
about him. The place was entirely deserted. There was not 
a soul either in the wood, or in the valley. The man opened 
the pocket-book, and drew from it, not the handful of bank- 
bills which Thenardier expected, but a little piece of paper, 
which he unfolded and presented open to the innkeeper, 
saying : 

" You are right. Read that ! " 

Thenardier took the paper and read. 

" M sur M , March 25, 1823. 

" Monsieur Thenardier: 

" You will deliver Cosette to the bearer. He will settle all 
small debts. 

" I have the honour to salute you with consideration. 


" You know that signature? " replied the man. 

It was indeed the signature of Fantine. Thenardier recog- 
nised it. 

There was nothing to say. He felt doubly enraged, enraged 
at being compelled to give up the bribe which he hoped for, 
and enraged at being beaten. The man added: 

" You can keep this paper as your receipt." 

Thenardier retreated in good order. 

" This signature is very well imitated," he grumbled between 
his teeth. " Well, so be 'it ! " 



Then he made a desperate effort. 

" Monsieur," said he, " it is all right. Then you are the 
person. But you must settle ' all small debts.' " There is a 
large amount due to me." 

The man rose to his feet, and said at the same time, snapping 
with his thumb and finger some dust from his threadbare sleeve : 

" Monsieur Thenardier, in January the mother reckoned that 
she owed you a hundred and twenty francs; you sent her in 
February a memorandum of five hundred francs; you received 
three hundred francs at the end of February, and three hundred 
at the beginning of March. There has since elapsed nine 
months which, at fifteen francs per month, the price agreed 
upon, amounts to a hundred and thirty-five francs. You had 
received a hundred francs in advance. There remain thirty- 
five francs due you. I have just given you fifteen hundred 

Thenardier felt what the wolf feels the moment when he finds 
himself seized and crushed by the steel jaws of the trap. 

" What is this devil of a man? " thought he. 

He did what the wolf does, he gave a spring. Audacity had 
succeeded with him once already. 

" Monsieur-I-don't-know-your-name," said he resolutely, 
and putting aside this time all show of respect. " I shall 
take back Cosette or you must give me a thousand crowns." 

The stranger said quietly: 

" Come, Cosette." 

He took Cosette with his left hand, and with the right picked 
up his staff, which was on the ground. 

Thenardier noted the enormous size of the cudgel, and the 
solitude of the place. 

The man disappeared in the wood with the child, leaving the 
chop-house keeper motionless and non-plussed. 

As they walked away, Thenardier observed his broad shoulders, 
a little rounded, and his big fists. 

Then his eyes fell back upon his own puny arms and thin 
hands. " I must have been a fool indeed," thought he, " not 
to have brought my gun, as I was going on a hunt." 

However, the innkeeper did not abandon the pursuit. 

" I must know where he goes," said he; and he began to 
follow them at a distance. There remained two things in his 
possession, one a bitter mockery, the piece of paper signed 
Fantine, and the other a consolation, the fifteen hundred francs. 

The man was leading Cosette in the direction of Livry and 

4* o Les Miserables 

Bondy. He was walking slowly, his head bent down, in an 
attitude of reflection and sadness. The winter had bereft the 
wood of foliage, so that Thenardier did not lose sight of them, 
though remaining at a considerable distance behind. From time 
to time the man turned, and looked to see if he were followed. 
Suddenly he perceived Th6nardier. He at once entered a 
coppice with Cosette, and both disappeared from sight. " The 
devil! " said Thenardier. And he redoubled his pace. 

The density of the thicket compelled him to approach them. 
When the man reached the thickest part of the wood, he turned 
again. Thenardier had endeavoured to conceal himself in the 
branches in vain, he could not prevent the man from seeing 
him. The man cast an uneasy glance at him, then shook his 
head, and resumed his journey. The innkeeper again took up 
the pursuit. They walked thus two or three hundred paces. 
Suddenly the man turned again. He perceived the innkeeper. 
This time he looked at him so forbiddingly that Thenardier 
judged it " unprofitable " to go further. Thenardier went 



JEAN VALJEAN was not dead. 

When he fell into the sea, or rather when he threw himself 
into it, he was, as we have seen, free from his irons. He swam 
under water to a ship at anchor to which a boat was fastened. 

He found means to conceal himself in this boat until evening. 
At night he betook himself again to the water, and reached the 
land a short distance from Cape Brun. 

There, as he did not lack for money, he could procure clothes. 
A little publi